A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘goals

As June winds down, so does the school year. For many students, it’s the end of elementary school or high school and time for Grade 8 or Grade 12 grad, or even college or university grad.

I’m no fan of cameras, but even I was willing to be photographed today as we celebrated my son’s Grade 8 graduation.

grad photo

My son and I after his graduation ceremony

One of my favourite parts of the ceremony was the opening slide show, featuring portraits of each student in Grade 6 and in his or her grad photo. I could see the changes in the kids, especially in my son, now a handsome young man preparing to enter high school.

For those returning to the classroom in the fall, I pray that this would be a time to reenergize for the year ahead but also to take stock of the year gone by:

  • How will you improve your work habits? Will you spend more time reviewing or studying?
  • Will this be the year you step outside your comfort zone and join a new club or team?
  • Do your friends encourage you to pursue your dreams? Do you need to find more friends who respect your values and goals?
  • Do you have a vision for your life—the career you’re meant to pursue, the values that will guide your life, the people you want to be a part of it?

And for those of us who are parents, extended family, or simply other caring adults in the lives of these young people, whatever the next stage in their lives—be it high school, postsecondary education or the workforce—they need our prayers that they will make good choices and follow the path God would have them take. That they will carefully (and prayerfully) choose their friends, the people they date or marry, their courses or careers. That they will carry with them the skills and the values we’ve tried to instil in them.

As we move into the summer holidays, I pray that God would be with our children in their leisure time spent with friends and family, in their efforts to complete their volunteer hours or to catch up or reach ahead in their courses, and in their growth as people of faith.

I spent much of yesterday afternoon with my son’s school soccer team as they played their last exhibition games. Clearly the team members know the saying, “There’s no “I” in team.” A few things I noticed impressed me:

  • They listened to their coach.
  • Even when they were waiting to play, they cheered on their teammates.
  • They worked hard in whatever position the coach asked them to fill.
  • They congratulated everyone who took part in scoring a goal.
  • At times they were behind in points or were tired, but they never stopped working.

This group of 13- and 14-year-olds could teach us a few things, both in our families and in our spiritual families:

Listening to our coaches. In our families, do we listen to and take advice from our coaches—our parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles, spouse? In our spiritual families, do we read God’s word, spend time with Jesus in prayer, and ask for more of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Do we listen to the priest’s homilies and receive the sacrament of Reconciliation?

Cheering on our teammates. Do we encourage and pray for our family members in their jobs, schoolwork, or community or extracurricular activities? Do we encourage the members of our spiritual families and thank them for their hard work—the parish secretary who keeps things in stock and organized or the teams that provide the worship music, decorate the worship space, run the children’s liturgy, and so on—and pray for them?

Working hard in whatever position we’re asked to fill. As parents, we may serve as cook, chauffeur, cleaner, repair person, tutor, and so on. And our children learn by watching us—our skills as well as our attitudes. Do we serve “as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men” (see Ephesians 6:6-7*), or do we grumble and complain? In our spiritual families, do we help where needed—taking on ministry roles in someone’s absence, volunteering for jobs that need to be done, or serving where our priest has asked for our help?

target

Do we work together to hit our targets–and thank everyone for their efforts?

Congratulating everyone who helps achieve a goal. In our families, do we recognize the part that everyone plays in cleaning our spaces for a yard sale, saving for a family trip, or even getting the laundry or dishes done and put away—even with a thank-you or a hug—or do we just nag and expect things to get done? In our spiritual families, do we take time to thank the people who make the parish picnic happen; organize the Christmas pageant or youth events; or make services such as Confirmation, First Eucharist, or regular Sunday Masses run well?

Working even when we’re behind in “points” or tired. In our families, do we keep trying even when it’s hard—to help our children succeed in school, pursue activities that develop their God-given gifts, or learn important life skills; to develop our own skills by becoming more organized or more aware and in control of our spending; or to spend more time reading the Bible, praying, and deepening our faith life? In our spiritual families, do we keep trying to attract newcomers by being welcoming; to draw families to our parish with children’s liturgy, youth ministry, and family-friendly activities; or to help parishioners grow in their faith by offering opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration, praying the rosary, running prayer groups, and having Catholic Women’s League or Knights of Columbus groups?

In our families and our church families, may we remember that we are all part of the same team—the body of Christ, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:12, 26-27:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. . . .If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

And may we remember the only “I” on our team—the great “I AM” (see Exodus 3:14):

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

(I)n your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

–  Psalm 139:16

There’s no getting around it: I am literally counting down the days until I turn 40. I’m not sure whether I’m more challenged by the fact that I’m entering my 40s or by the fact that I have a 13-year-old son (and everything that goes with having a teenager).

But I wanted to put a positive spin on turning 40. Inspired by a video I saw at a CWL meeting that showed someone doing 21 good deeds to celebrate their 21st birthday, I’m setting 40 goals (yes, 40) for this year. Being a list maker, I’ve organized them into four different kinds of goals:

  • Things that scare me: For example, letting go of things that are holding me back, like all those mementoes just taking up space in my cedar chest and closet. I want to move forward when God asks me to rather than let my baggage and fears keep me marching in place.
  • Things that let me be creative: For example, transcribing one of the songs I’ve written instead of keeping the music in my head. I want to use and not waste the gifts God has given me.
  • Things that would be good for my physical, mental or spiritual health: For example, exercising regularly. I want to have the energy to do the things God asks me to do.
  • Things that would strengthen my relationships: For example, making family time (like movie night, board game time or taekwon-do classes) a priority. I want to have good relationships with the people God has brought into my life.

I’ve already gotten started on my list to encourage myself because I was struggling with turning 40. But having lost a friend to cancer five years ago, I remind myself that every birthday you celebrate is precious, and every day is a gift. A chance to change for the better, to use your talents, to care for others, and to do some good in this world.

And I take comfort in the assurance that God knows what lies ahead for me and knew even before I was born, as Psalm 139, one of my favourite psalms, tells me. And that, as Jeremiah 29:11 says, God has a plan for my life: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

If you’re also celebrating a milestone birthday this year and wondering what lies ahead, then I pray you would be reassured by these verses and encouraged to move forward with new goals for your life. (See my May 23rd post, “Pressing On,” for suggestions if you need them.)

(*Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

(B)ut one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14, Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition 

When I was still a student—and, being a list-maker and planner, again and again through the years—I set certain goals that I hoped to achieve by the age of 25, 30 or 40. Plans for my career, my poetry, even my fitness level. I focussed on the destination; the journey was something to endure rather than enjoy.

Now the big 4-0 is just a few months away (note the way I say “the big 4-0” the way some people spell out “v-e-t” so their pets don’t panic), I’ve been thinking about my successes and setbacks and definitely brooding a bit over the targets I missed. Something milestone birthdays tend to bring out in me. While thinking about new goals for the future, I’ve realized there are two important questions I haven’t always considered: What goals does God want me to pursue, and how does he want me to pursue them?

The scriptures tell us that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours (see Isaiah 55:8-9) and that we are to love one another (see Mark 12:29-31), seek justice and mercy (see Micah 6:8), and keep the faith (see 2 Timothy 4:7). Since we’re only human, our instincts won’t always set us on the right path; we need God to guide us and keep us there. And we need to pursue our goals in ways that are loving and respectful of others.

Knowing this, how do we then identify a goal worth pursuing? Here are a few suggestions from a lifelong list-maker and avid reader:

  • Make a list. Take inventory of our strengths, interests, achievements and experiences. I recommend something like the Listography Journal. The trip down memory lane is a nice bonus.
  • Read a book by someone who’s been there. Get advice on identifying changes to make and benefit from someone else’s experience. My suggestions: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, Life Makeovers by Cheryl Richardson and (especially for youth) Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.
  • Hit the books. Attend a workshop on identifying and using spiritual gifts or take an interest course through a school board, college or university, or public library. I took an interest course on blogging at Algonquin College before starting this blog.
  • Talk about it. Find a sounding board in a family member or trusted friend, spiritual director, or parish priest. My husband and a good friend I call Mom listen to my ideas, ask good questions and encourage me.
  • Pray to receive guidance and strength through the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to underestimate our ability to take on a challenge as well as the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to achieve a goal. But the book of Acts is a wonderful example of how the Spirit equips people to do great things for God.

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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