So Much To Do!!!

Ugh.  There’s always so much to do!  Even though, compared to almost every other family I know, we have a pretty low-key life with little to no extra-curricular activities happening on any given day… I still so often feel like I just can’t get everything done that I either want or need to get done!

Take today, for example. Here is what I have pending on my never-ending mental TO Do List

(I’ll put * next to the ones I’m super excited about and wish I could spend hours on):

  • *Have some chill time wherein I get to study God’s Word in depth and journal in depth about what it means for me.
  • *Write and edit about 15 different articles I have swirling around my head and pending on my desktop.
  • Keep my kids alive, healthfully-fed, physically active, and get them to and from school on time.
  • *Make photobook of all our family’s favorite photos from 2014.
  • *Finish “life book” (including quotes, anecdotes, and 80+ years of photos) honoring my recently-passed-away grandma
  • Put the piles of laundry away in my bedroom.
  • *Work out or go on a walk.
  • Plan out three upcoming road trips/vacations—one to visit my 92-year old ailing grandma, one to visit my niece who is about to graduate from high school, and one combo family/friend trip 9 hours away… Did I mention our family hasn’t gone on a long road trip in 4-5 years due to the fact that I cannot stand the stress of traveling with my grumpy-on-the-road-hubby-whom-I-adore-but-can’t-stand-hearing-him-complain-about-having-to-sit-in-the-car-for-more-than-two-hours???
  • Make jewelry (which is my 5-10 hours per week “day job”).
  • Shower.
  • Keep my 2-year-old alive and generally contented (aka physically active and mentally and emotionally stimulated).
  • Figure out how to do some behind-the-scenes blog-related stuff.
  • Get more connected with other women at my church—I can’t stay on this Boat of Isolation any longer!
  • *Read a new ebook I got and reread a few other thought-provoking and insightful books.
  • Order a few random needs and wants from Amazon.
  • Get a few things from the grocery store that I forgot to get when I was at Costco yesterday.
  • Plan and make dinner.
  • Clean house, especially the kitchen.
  • *Plan my garden for this year.
  • *Continue journaling about and processing through all God spoke to me at the conference I was at this past weekend.
  • Help my dad reorganize and decorate his house— the sample paint patches on the wall for 3 years straight are driving me crazy!
  • Look into what it would cost and how it would be logistically possible for me and the kids to fly out to visit my mom sometime this year.

But alas… I have three children, one of whom is barely two years old, the other two who are budding young ladies facing homework challenges and girl-friend drama… and they need me to help be their chauffeur, cook, confidante, counselor, tutor and— in the case of the toddler more than the 9 and 11-year olds— play-friend.

It’s exhausting just thinking about.

So what wins?

How do I decide how to spend my time?

For me, the main questions I ask myself a zillion times a day is “What really matters?” and “What on my To Do List is absolutely necessary and/or time-sensitive?”  Well… unfortunately in a sense, I’ve got three big-time critical priorities that sometimes seem impossible for me to juggle.  They are each super important, but I honestly don’t know how to make time to really do any of them very well.

One is the insurmountable urgency of my own connection with God (which also translates to my own personal sanity); another is the immeasurable importance of my children: their survival, their fulfillment, and their own personal connections with God.  And don’t even get me started on how much my husband and I need to connect and sort things out.

I have found, through trial and error, that if I primarily focus on the kids and my husband and all their needs, and don’t give heed to my own body and soul’s needs and longings, things don’t work out so great.  A domino effect happens. Here’s the scientific formula associated with what I’m talking about:

Me + Empty Tank = Bad Idea

empty-gas-tank

When I’m running on empty, never taking the time to get filled up by my Creator, I get cranky (some might call it “bitchy”).  I also get Depressed (with a capital D), hopeless, overwhelmed, and foolish.  When I feel soul-parched, I not only become not-the-nicest-person, I also get very manically outward-focused.  I’m not sure if it’s a Type A thing or what, but when I start feeling overwhelmed (either emotionally or responsibility-wise), I immediately go into “Business Mode.”  I just DO.  I look for what needs are around me and I just start do-do-doing and go-go-going.  Feelings of any type are shoved to the wayside and I robotically and industriously focus on tasks.  It is during those times that I start going nuts on organizing closets and cupboards and sheds and drawers.  Or I start committing myself or the kids to all kinds of extra-curricular activities that will eventually choke the life and joy out of us all.  Or I start finding my mind consumed by questions like “I wonder what he/she thinks of me?” or “What can I do to impress him/her and make him/her think I am amazing?” or the seemingly innocuous but secretly poisonous “Who around me could use a free meal or a word of encouragement or some help with their own backpack of responsibilities?”  (While that last question may not seem like a bad idea, the problem with it lies in the fact that it is not stemming from a place of genuine love or kindness, but rather from a place of personal desperation to prove my own worthiness or goodness.  Plus, if I am already at my wit’s end when I offer more of myself, the chances that I will finish the task feeling beyond exhaustion to the point of utter depletion is sky high.)

So.  I need to make sure that God and I are hooking up in a meaningful way on a regular basis… somehow.  I also need to ensure I am caring for myself physically so that I can handle whatever comes my way.

But it is also infinitely important that I tend to the garden of my children’s hearts.  And, of course, do the necessary things like feed them, encourage a healthy, active lifestyle in them, and help them live in a not-toxically-dirty home.

And of course there’s the always-pressing issue of my police officer husband who I need to comfort, help, confront and challenge.

So I find myself double-dipping a lot.  Trying to get two-for-ones.

For example, to meet the kids’ need to get their wiggles out in the fresh air and to meet my own need for wide open spaces and exercise, I might take the kiddos to the local regional park to do a family hike.

Or, as another example, to meet my son’s need for activity and a change of scenery and to meet my own need for a good old fashioned conversation with an adult, I might take him for a walk on his “motorcycle” (aka tricycle with a parent push-bar) and either meet a friend or talk on the phone with a long-distance relative the whole walk.

Or, as another example, to meet my own need for exercise and my need to write in order to sort through my mishmash of thoughts that are forever running rampant inside my head, I might dictate an entire monologue via Siri on my iPhone the whole time I’m hiking.

Or I might make jewelry while I’m in the barn semi-observing my daughter’s horse lesson.

Or I might attempt to go on a hike with my husband in hopes that we might get some good old fashioned marital bonding accomplished while we exercise.

Or I might work on a photobook while the kids are watching a movie.

Or I might put laundry away, clean my bedroom and reorganize my chaotic closet while I’m chatting with my dad about our upcoming road trip together.

And while sometimes some of those double-dipping experiences are totally fine and a wise use of my time, often times they just aren’t possible.  Sometimes certain goals I have are super time-consuming and, though they might be important and even fun to me, they simply gobble up more time than I have available.  (Like, for example, the Life Book I really want to complete which will honor my recently-gone-to-heaven grandma: I made one for my other (living) grandma last year and it took probably 100 hours to complete.  Ugh.  Where can I find that many slivers of time???)

Before I ever had kids, I used to say I wanted “a tribe of children.”  One of my grandmothers had 6 kids, each of whom had between 2-6 kids of their own, and I always loved the chaos of a bunch cousins running around.  The idea of me being a stay-at-home mom with a bunch of little munchkins running all over the place seemed like such a fun idea.

And then I got married to a godly, loving, thoughtful, introverted worship leader who later became a hard working, dedicated, proactive police officer very concerned with protecting the innocent from evil and perverse people.

And then, a week before my second wedding anniversary, I had my first child.

And then, 18 months later, I had another child.

And then… I paused on the baby-making until further notice.

This parenting thing was legit, man!  And so was being married to a cop!  It wasn’t for wimps, let me tell you!  Especially if, like me, you were genuinely trying to put your heart and soul and time into each relationship.  And if you were hoping to have your kids not need too much counseling later in life… 😉

So J and I paused, put a goalie in place, and I tried to get my bearings and try to figure out this whole wife and mother world.

And now, 11 1/2 years after becoming a mother, and adding another little man-child a few years ago… I’m still trying to figure out this whole wife and mother thing.

I thought I would have “arrived” by now.  I hoped I would have “arrived,” anyway.  But I haven’t.  I’m still trying to figure out how to manage my time wisely.  I’m still trying to figure out how to not feel pulled in a million directions.  I’m still trying to figure out how to not constantly feel like I’m failing at least one of the people I most love in my life.  And I’m still trying to figure out how to balance my need for time alone with God and my need to be an active and engaged mother and wife and contributor to society-at-large.

A few years ago, God told me two things that I know He meant to help me with this whole issue of time management and never feeling like I’m enough.  He said this:

“Stop Striving.”

and

“Rest.”

He wants me to follow my heart more than my To Do List.  He wants me to listen to His Spirit and my own soul’s longings rather than what society or the people around me might tell me is important.  He wants me to rest in the comfort and knowledge that He will make up the difference in the many places and moments I am lacking.

He is trustworthy.  And He loves my husband and children more than I ever could.  And He will fill in the gaps where I am insufficient or flawed or even downright “off.”

So I can rest in that.  I can rest in Him.  I don’t need to do-do-do or go-go-go all the time.  I have Almighty God’s permission to stop striving.

And that is great.

Beyond words— that is great.

But still… in the day to day… it’s sometimes hard to know what to do and how to best spend my time.

* * *

What about you?

Do any of you ever feel this way?  Do you ever have so much to do you’re not even sure where to begin?  Or have you ever gotten a life-changing word from God but then had a challenging time hearing Him coach you on how to apply it in your daily life?

Please feel free to email me or share your experience to the comment section below.

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