Archive for December, 2005

Posted on December 28th, 2005, by Mary Jo

A couple of years ago one of my Mastermind teammates challenged me to answer these three questions:

* What would I be doing if nothing stood in my way?

* What stands in my way?

* What do I need to do to achieve my goals?

I resisted it, put it off, said I didn’t have time to think about it . . . but finally I thought about these questions and wrote down my answers.  I named the computer file “Big Dream.”

As we approach the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006, I’d like to challenge you to do the same. You’ll be amazed how powerful this process is.

Around the same time, I began writing down lifetime, yearly, and weekly goals in three categories: personal, family (including homeschooling), and business.

During this final week of 2005, I’m evaluating the year—how I did on meeting the goals I set for the year, what I accomplished, and areas that need more work.  Then, I’ll write down specific goals for 2006. This process works so much better than the typical “New Year’s Resolutions” that nobody ever keeps!

The keys to setting goals are making them specific and measurable:  not “make more money in 2006” but “double my income in 2006”; not “read more” but “read x number of pages, chapters, books, or hours each week.”

One more key to effective goals:  you have to review them from time to time!  As I’ve begun evaluating 2005, I’ve found that I’ve accomplished quite a lot and have done well on my weekly goals but seemed to lose sight of some of my yearly goals along the way.  I need to build in a regular time (probably monthly) to review those yearly goals and lifetime goals to make sure my weekly goals support them.  Otherwise, it’s too easy to get caught up in the daily grind and the tyranny of the urgent and lose sight of my long-term strategy.

If you’d like to share your own Big Dream and goals, feel free to leave a comment.

Mary Jo Tate

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Posted on December 22nd, 2005, by Mary Jo

Thanks to Lisa Baker over at Homeschooling with Grace for offering this suggestion in the comments: 

One of the ways my rather large church keeps up with the needs of widows and single moms it to assign those who are without families in town to a particular deacon. They just did this with me recently. (My father passed away in March, leaving me without family in town to help.) If I need help, I just call my deacon, and he will either take care of it or refer it to a ministry in the church that can help. It was a real blessing before Christmas to have someone come over and help me get things out of the attic and put up lights. This is not a perfect system, and as of yet I am not convinced it can stand alone in meeting the needs of orphans and widows, but it is a good step toward helping.

What a fantastic idea!  Folks, share this suggestion with your own churches. Having a designated deacon to call could really encourage widows and single moms to ask for help when otherwise they might not be sure whom to ask or might feel uncomfortable making a request. 

Mary Jo Tate


Posted on December 21st, 2005, by Mary Jo

I’ve written before about ways that the church can help single-parent families, and it’s wonderful that my own church’s ministry to my family provides such plentiful ideas!  

I thought I’d share some new stories from this year to serve as examples for others who want to bless single-parent families.

My 13yo son Forrest went on a church mission trip to Peru for a week this summer (along with 10 adults).  Each person was supposed to raise $700, and the church mission fund paid the rest.  Forrest was able to earn $200, and an anonymous donor from the church contributed the extra $500 on his behalf. Forrest was able to take his first plane flight, visit a foreign country, and, most importantly, minister to the children there.  He came home talking about working as an intern in Peru for a year between high school and college.  This life-changing trip was made possible through that anonymous donor’s generosity.

With natural gas prices skyrocketing, I determined to use our wood stove, rather than our central heat, as our primary heat source this winter.  I posted a note on the church bulletin board, asking if anyone had leftover firewood after switching to gas logs (we got a truckload of firewood from someone in this situation last year) or if anyone knew of an affordable source for firewood.  Three people offered to give us firewood.  One couple and their grandchildren delivered a trailer-load of wood that they had cut on their property—lots of beautiful red oak that burns slowly and generates plenty of heat!  

A couple of weeks ago an elder from our church told me he had some things for my boys sent by friends of his former next-door neighbors.  We had met the neighbors about 4 years ago, and they have sent clothes for my boys from time to time. (We love hand-me-downs!)  The neighbors had told their friends about us, and one of the friends happened to be a doctor in the same medical practice as the missions chairman of our church (who spearheaded the trip to Peru).   They sent a bike that their boys had outgrown.  It was just the right size for my 9yo Perry, who learned to ride it in about 5 minutes. They also sent two large bags of clothes in excellent condition.  Right in the top of one of the bags were two pairs of size 10 khakis—and I had just resigned myself to needing to buy some size 10 khakis for Andrew!

The biggest blessing was a check that arrived in the mail last week. Each year our church takes up an offering as a “birthday gift to Jesus” after the children’s Christmas program.  Those gifts are put in a special fund to be used for needs of members and friends of our church, such as people with medical emergencies or other unusual financial needs, and also single parents.  I have received a check each December;  the amount always varies (one year it was $400, another $100), and it’s always providentially appropriate to our needs each year.

Although my home-based business is growing, this December was a particularly tight month for us financially. Several payments that are due me probably won’t arrive until January, and I must confess that I had stewed in anxiety over our finances quite a lot for a couple of weeks. My credit cards were maxed out, and I couldn’t see how I could finish paying the month’s bills, much less do even minimal Christmas shopping.  When I opened the envelope from the church to discover a check for $1,000, I cried for 15 minutes!  That was exactly what we needed for the rest of the year.  I hadn’t told anyone how tight things were, but our Father who owns the cattle on a thousand hills knew just what we needed.

I called the chairman of our deacons to ask how the fund works and how the amount is determined.  He said that the women of the church and the deacons work together to identify needs and apportion the available funds. This is not part of the regular church budget but is funded solely through the yearly Christmas offering. This is certainly a program that any church could implement.

I would love to hear what other churches are doing to help single parents.  If you have given or received help, please share your ideas!

May God bless each of you at Christmas and throughout the new year!

Mary Jo Tate


Posted on December 9th, 2005, by Mary Jo

MaggieRaye has posted a list of resources for single parent homeschoolers here:

I look forward to working my way through the links and reading other single parents’ stories.

Thanks, MaggieRaye, for a great resource! 

Mary Jo Tate

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