By the Book Media
Do you dream of leaving a stressful commute behind? Would you like to work from the comfort of your own home? If this is something you can only have in your dreams, or think is for everyone else but you, then think again. You too can have the good life, and spend more time with your family focusing on what matters most.
This really does sound like a sales ad, doesnít it? I imagine that there are very few of us who havenít seen this type of ad promising less stress and a better way of living. But what of those who have bravely taken the plunge, left the corporate world, and are finding that perhaps the good life isnít quite as good as they thought? Maybe youíre one of those who found that youíve traded the hour-long commute for carpool duty, and you still donít have more time to devote to your business. Are you a failure in business management, or did the rules simply change faster than you could keep up with them?
My guess is that you picked up this book because you desperately need to find more time in your busy day, not just to finish your work but so that you can focus on the very reason you chose to work from home in the first place: to spend more quality time with your family. Maybe now that you are an office staff of one, youíve let things slide in the filing department, and your paper stacks are multiplying in the night, having little baby stacklets of their own. The clutter and chaos is just too much for you to handle, and you donít know where to turn for help.
My friend, you are not alone, believe me! If I could choose one simple truth to share with you, that would be it. Not only do you share chaos-filled days with other entrepreneurs and parents (whose personal stories could make your toes curl) but you have access to the most experienced business manager who ever lived: your heavenly Father. God never intended for His children to go it alone in anything, and that includes business ventures, too! If you have prayerfully chosen to work from home whenever possible, He will bless your efforts and draw you closer to him, your family, and to other believers as well.
Much has been written by experts throughout the years about time management, clutter control, career management, marketing, sales, and life coaching. But if youíre like me and have discovered that doing everything by the book Ė their bookódidnít quite deliver the results you envisioned, perhaps you werenít living by the right book! Once you choose to make God your manager, and go to Him first for all your decisions, youíll find that you struggle less and relax more.
At the end of each chapter, you will find the profile of a successful Christian entrepreneur. Iíve asked each of them to share their tips, trials and favorite passages of scripture. I pray that you will be uplifted as I was reading through them, remembering that each of us has a unique message to share during the course of our lifetime. Some of us are lucky enough to live it and work it at the same time. Others have learned lessons the hard way and are more than happy to share how they overcame the obstacles and learned how to seek God first in all they do.
So why donít we discover together just how we can go about building this business of yours on a solid foundation, with God at the very core of our plans. Put your trust in Him, focusing on what matters most--- God, family, and then workóand soon youíll begin to see how all the other aspects of your home business will fall into place like the pieces of a puzzle. Work on those corner pieces first, creating a solid framework for marketing, networking, sales, finances, and daily operations. Without it, youíre just another consultant or retailer. With it, with Him, you can strive toward being the very best that you can be, for yourself, your family, and your Heavenly Father.
Now letís get down to businessÖÖ
Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
When you work from home, whether for yourself or an employer, itís so important to build a solid foundation for your home office. Just as an experienced contractor lays a foundation to support a church or office building, so too should you create a strong support to uphold your business infrastructure. Too often in the early phases of our work we do extensive research in the library, join the local chamber of commerce, and share leads with our local networking groups. We have a checklist of things to do before we can hang out our shingle as a consultant, saleswoman, or trainer. There are licenses to apply for, accounts to open, and cards to print.
But without a firm plan - a course of direction - your business could easily become a house built upon the sand; looking like all the others around it until one of lifeís unexpected waves washes it away. Oh, if only you had taken the time to go to your Heavenly Father, a true mentor who sees all aspects of your life and constantly minds your business for you! 2 Timothy 2:19 reminds us that, ďnevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal. The Lord knows those who are His, and Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.Ē
Although goal planning and prioritizing have their place in our daily lives, I cannot stress enough the importance of beginning your work at home journey with solid answers to the following questions: Are you Goal driven, or God driven? What are your family values? Are you routinely referring to your Monthly Action Plan or just winging it? And if youíre doing business ďby the bookĒ, are you making sure itís the right book (Godís holy word)?
Experts in business will tell you that one of the most important steps in launching a business is setting goals and then learning how to realistically reach them within a reasonable time frame. A big part of business planning is creating goals that are a natural extension of your heartís desire and yet are easily attainable. Now I could tell you that itís simple to set and reach goals, and that all you have to do is follow the guidelines of a book written by one of the prominent leaders in marketing or life coaching, checking them off one by one like items on a grocery list. But thatís the easy part. The hardest part, on the other hand, is setting goals that actually fall within the framework of Godís blueprint for your life (business life included). In other words, you can write the longest wish list ever and set goals that will help you achieve the desires of your heart, but unless itís something that will draw you closer to Godís plan, itís pretty much a waste of your energy and time.
Now before I burst your bubble even more than it already is, please allow me to share a bit of my own experience in goal setting. Itís confession time! As an organizing strategist, I live for list making; I really think itís in my blood. Working early on from a list of goals for each phase of my business (5 year, 3 year, 1 year, 6 months, 3 months, etc.), I created marketing plans and new products that would help me reach those goals within a reasonable time period. Iím a visual learner, so I used colored highlighters to cross the projects off after they were completed. Once a month I took the time to update my business goals, creating new ones as necessary, and patting myself on the back for reaching others.
This little routine continued for about three years, and then I began to see a definite pattern. Yes, I was reaching my goals, but the operative word here was my. Hmmm, I guess itís time for a bit of reflection here. Were those milestones edifying to others? Were they within Godís overall will for my life? I seriously began to question my motives, and prayerfully began a journey of renewal. After going to God in prayer, I realized that my list was just a mix of words, and not really what God wanted me to do. In fact, I hadnít even asked him what I should do at all. Wow, was this ever a painful wake-up call! Although I had achieved success as a professional organizer, I was more focused on checking items off a list than in how this would fit into the overall business plan that God wanted for me. Ouch!
Slowly, ever so slowly, I began to seek His will and not my own. Through journaling, prayer, and the support of some dear Christian mentors, I discovered that there is not a separation of business and ministry; itís all the same in our lives here on earth. And Godís goals, written in His book, are so much different from the worldís view of success! So instead of focusing on products, I began to realize that itís the people that make a ministry, not the projects.
You know, Iím always telling my students that organization is not a destination but a journey. And I believe with all my heart that this is true in our business life as well. Minding our business, as they say, is a journey that brings you people to minister to and learn lessons from. I canít begin to count the times that God has connected me with a team that I would have never met outside of His will. He has opened doors that allowed all of us to grow on a personal level, as well as expanded our individual ministries. It was definitely a ďGod thingĒ!
So the next time you sit at your keyboard or pick up a journal to set down your dreams onto paper, I hope that youíll first go to your heavenly Father, who is indeed the best business manager in the entire world. As the worldís greatest expert, He alone knows your needs, and has authored the best-selling book of all time: the Holy Bible. Take Him your thoughts, your dreams, your goals and aspirations. For in your obedience, you can rest assured that youíll be blessed beyond measure!
I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted. I will ask Thee and do Thou instruct me. (Job 42: 2, 4b)
I imagine that one of the reasons you work from home is to focus on family first, your career second. Whether youíve brought corporate work home or have launched a cottage industry, working from home allows you to spend more time with your children and less time commuting or in meetings away from those you love. But have you ever taken the time to share this attitude with your kids, your husband, or even your neighbors? Do they know how much your family matters to you?
We first discussed this in our home about a year ago, after my husband heard a sermon on talk radio about family values. Later when he presented me with a piece of paper listing our new household rules, I was thrilled beyond measure. This, in a nutshell, expressed the very heart of our family! In a few words, my husband had defined who we were and what mattered most in our busy lives.
Just to get your creative juices flowing, Iíve listed our own family values below. This is by no means gospel or absolute, and Iím sure youíll easily come up with unique ones of your own.
Williams Family Values
1 Love God
2 Put Family First
3 Work Hard
4 Tell the Truth
5 Be Kind to One Another
See the pattern here? In just five lines of text, weíve created a framework for our business lives, social lives, and all the hours in our familyís day. It defines who we are, how we spend our time, and what we believe in.
Referring to this list on a regular basis keeps our family on track, focusing on what matters most in our lives: God, family, and work. It reminds us to be honest and work hard and be kind to one another. (And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32)
Seeing this list each day as I open the refrigerator door gently reminds me to prioritize my day with God and my family, not rush to check my email or start making sales calls to potential clients. And best of all, it allows visitors in our home to see that God is at the top of our to-do-list, not sports or community service, or other busyness activities. What better way to remind myself of why I chose to work at home than to see the heartbeat of our family values staring at me each morning before I eat my breakfast cereal?
Iíd like to challenge each of you to write down your own Family Values. Print them out, and post them in a prominent place in your home. Share them with your children, your husband, your family and even your friends. Before long, everyone who visits your home or conducts business with you on a regular basis will be able to see what matters most in your life: honesty, kindness, faithfulness and love. (ďBut now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.Ē 1 Corinthians 13:13)
Those of you who are familiar with my writing know that I like to share whenever possible all the lessons Ė both good and badóthat the Lord teaches me. Whether itís learning how to balance my home organizing ministry with family duties, or learning how to make more hours each day for quiet walks with God, Iíve pretty much hung them out on the line for all to see.
But what you probably donít know is the real inspiration behind my books and workshops. For example, Put Your House in Order was a message meant for me personally, not just for those dear clutter-bugs who elected to pick up my little book on organizing their homes. In my all-consuming attempt to save the disorganized world, I was losing a little of myself in the process (sound familiar?). So to get my attention, about a week or so before 9/11, I heard a distinct message from God: Put Your House in Order. Of course, Iím pretty organized (Iíd better be since I wear the mantle of an organizing expert!) so I assumed that this message was something that God wanted me to tell others, not do for myself.
So I hit the books, studying everything I could get my hands on about chaos, stewardship, and other household management principles contained with Godís holy word. I learned a lot in the process, and was happy to share it with future readers. The book was written, and then God miraculously provided the funding and a team to help me publish this self-help book. It must be the right thing to do, or so I thought.
I was pretty pleased with myself, not only in my obedience to Godís message, but marketing & promotion were well underway. But it wasnít until a couple of months into the new year of 2003 before I realized something was definitely wrong. Yes, as His servant I had followed His instructions and written a book about putting oneís house in order. The iís were dotted and the tís were crossedóafter all, hadnít He clearly told me to do this? But no one was buying it. And I mean literally, not figuratively. Not one book buyer within the retail industry wanted to carry my book. What was wrong? Didnít I write, publish, and market this project by the book according to the experts?
Iím sure by now youíre seeing an obvious omission on my part, right? You guessed it: I wasnít producing this by the right bookóGodís word. I literally followed the advice of every best-selling author and self-publishing guru, from publishing ďon demandĒ to creative marketing. The problem wasnít with everyone else; it was within me.
Well, I can truly say this much: itís a good thing that Iím well organized and keep to a regular cleaning schedule, because I could have easily encountered a lot of dust bunnies as I lay flat on my face in prayer beside my bed! Thereís nothing more humbling than learning that youíre not only a disobedient child, but youíre not a good listener, either. If only I had spent more time listening and less time brainstorming, I might not be in this pickle. But in my fervent hour of prayer (it really seemed more like days than minutes), I felt the Lord smile. Then I really thought I heard him chuckle. He lovingly reached out to me, picked me up, and held me close in His arms. Like a naughty child, I timidly looked into His eyes and sawÖ.love. No lightning bolts from heaven, no pillar of salt, or curses to my family line. Just pure and sweet love generously sprinkled with forgiveness and compassion.
Now as parents, arenít we working at home to be near our children? But donít we instead find ourselves impatiently snapping, ďBe quiet! Momís on the phone.Ē Or perhaps we constantly cry, ďNot now, son. Momís working.Ē Sometimes our kids do drive us nuts and the phone is really a kid-magnet as some claim. And perhaps we do lose our tempers, work too much, and donít spend enough time playing with our children. But maybe, just maybe, itís time to smile and reach out to our children and forgive them for their disobedience as our Heavenly Father forgives us. After all, parenting is mostly discipline, right? As we are reminded in Hebrews 12, verses 5-6: ďÖdo not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplinesÖĒ And verse 11:ĒAll discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.Ē
Yes, I could have kept this hard-earned lesson to myself or secretly shared it with a few close friends. Or I could put it aside to include in the next edition of the infamous book I wrote last year. But when God told me to ďJust start writing, Debbie, and then Iíll show you whatís next,Ē I listened and obeyed. This book is the direct result of my obedience.
I hope that you enjoy reading the rest of this organizing book, learning from my mistakes as well as my achievements. Iíd like to challenge you to view your time out with God as a privilege, rather than a ritual to dutifully perform each day. Instead turn your Bible study and prayer into a special time with your Heavenly Father as you joyfully receive His guidance and instruction, reminders of His unconditional love.
May you learn from my mistakes as, together, we continue to grow closer to our Lord and His divine plan for our lives.
I thought I knew what mattered most, until Ö God systematically appointed my life to fall apart. Oh, don't let that thought scare you. God knows what is best for His children (see Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews 12:6). You see, I thought the publishing company I established was exactly where I was to be. It was headed toward the "carefully-planned," five-year goal of a very profitable and lucrative business. However, as my business was outwardly prospering, everything I held dear to my heart began to fall away: 1) my marriage fell apart; 2) my children were away from home and in full-time daycare; 3) my house was a "pit stop" instead of a home; and 4) my physical and mental health was sub-standard. But yet, I was still confident in my own ability to press through it all and come out standing on the other end. God had a different plan.
In Matthew 7:24-27 we see that "a wise man builds his house on the rock: and when the rains descend and the floods come, and the winds blow and beat on this type of house, it does not fall because it is founded on the rock. Conversely, there is the not-so-wise man who builds his house on sinking sand: and when the rains descend and the floods come, and the winds blow and beat on this type of house. GREAT IS ITS FALL!"
Great indeed was my fallóso great that there was no place to begin but from the beginning. I share this personal experience to make one very important point. Whatever you do, including your home business, do not proceed without God. He has been gracious and merciful to rebuild my home and me back up upon a solid foundation. The business that God operates now through me is much different than the business that I operated in my own strength. As I look back now at the refining process, I would not have had it any other way. What did I do differently this time around? I'm glad you asked. Below are a few things I have disciplined myself to do in order to begin building my home and new business upon a solid foundation:
1. Get your house in order.
Both physically and spiritually. Dedicate your house to God according to Joshua 24:15. Pray over each room and every family member. Spend time daily reading God's Word and refueling from the cares of the world.
[Note: I realize this particular tip does not directly address your business. However, by getting your house in order, you'll soon realize that it sets the precedence for a successful home business.]
2. Keep Your Family First
No business is worth losing your family over. This can be a difficult area for the home-based business owner. It is difficult to create a separate line between home and business when both are under the same roof. But, we can wait until our family's needs are met before we make those phone calls, prepare those orders, or check our website statistics.
3. Make God Your CEO and Business Partner
Many of our day-to-day business glitches can be attributed to impatience (see Proverbs 21:5). If you believe in your business then give it the attention it deservesótake every decision to God. If you have a business partner, you know that you cannot make a decision for that company without first discussing it with your partner. It should be no different for the sole proprietor or any other business structure for that matter. Establish God as your CEO and business partner. Do not proceed without first discussing things with Him (see Matthew 6:33)
4. Pray Without Ceasing
Just as I now consult God about business decisions, I also pray about everything (see Colossians 4:2, Philippians 4:6)! The spirit of urgency often makes us step out and act hastily. As a result, our prayers become more rescue-oriented requestsóasking God to help us out of the aftermath of our haste. Get into the habit of regular, consistent prayer, and watch your business begin to line up with God's will.
Prayer That Avail Much, Special Business Edition, Germaine Copeland
12 Steps to Becoming A More Organized Woman, Lane P. Jordan
Donna M. Murphy is the creative director of Spiritually Restored, 2655 Covington Court, Fort Collins, CO 80526. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax at 1-303-568-7865.