I think the question I’m asked most often is, “How do you get it all done?” I guess the size of this website and the variety of topics discussed make it appear that I have 36-hour days and that I am a superwoman who can do it all. There is nothing further from the truth, and you can ask my husband or take a peek in my laundry room if you don’t believe me!
But this question has made me think. What is really important in my life, and are all the activities I’m involved in a good reflection of my priorities?
I am a firm believer that I only have only life to live. I desperately want to make each minute count for Christ. But it’s not always easy to take this belief and translate it into practical, everyday decisions like, “What should I make for dinner? How can I organize my house? How can I be a better wife and mom?”
When I was younger, I read a book called Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman. I learned that life is more than just 70 or so years on this earth. We need to live in light of all eternity. I also learned that if we don’t set goals or discover how God intends for us to spend our time, we can easily waste the precious minutes in each day. I made some goals for my life (that have remained much the same in over 15 years), and I’ve made it a habit to look at those goals often and make yearly, monthly, and daily goals that match.
When we live with the end in view, it’s much easier to choose how to spend our time each day. For instance, if one of my goals is to teach my children to love God with all their hearts, souls and minds, then it’s rather obvious what I should do tomorrow morning: take time to read Scripture to them, pray with and for them, help them memorize the Word, and help them learn to be obedient and receptive to God. If a friend calls and wants to scrapbook tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m., the time I normally spend with my children and teach them about God, my priorities dictate that I decline the invitation.
However, another of my goals is to reach those in my “circle of influence” for Christ. So now my priorities tell me that I need to reschedule scrapbooking (would Thursday evening be okay?) so that I have time to develop this relationship with my unsaved friend.
One of the problems I’ve faced is that I want to accomplish more in this life than I have time for! I guess I’m just an energetic person?? No, not really… However, having priorities tells me which accomplishments are most important. For instance, I have a goal of deeply studying every book of the Bible during my lifetime. I’m a long way from reaching my goal, but if I assume that the Lord allows me to live another 30 or 40 years, simple math tells me how much studying I need to do each year. If I divide that by the days in a year, I’ve determined I need to be studying at least 15 minutes every day. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Setting goals according to my priorities is rather like how someone can eat an elephant—one bite at a time! Writing a book is similar. It happens one page at a time, half an hour a day. The same goes for dishes—just a little after every meal keeps a kitchen sparkling clean. Homeschooling—a page of math a day over twelve years and voila! You have a college-ready child!
Because I’m doing so many little projects, I have to write down all of them and plug them into a schedule (gasp! not the S-word!). I don’t clean all at once; rather, I’ve written down all the cleaning tasks I’d like to do in a week and divided them up into 15-30 minute chore times each morning. I have scheduled times for answering e-mail, for paying bills, for doing laundry, for reading books to the little ones, for spending time with my husband, for making bread and chicken stock, for writing Bible studies, for checking this website for errors, for working on my current book projects, and for studying my Sunday school lesson.
Then, because I’m so forgetful, I’ve posted my schedule on my refrigerator door. I’ve also programmed my Outlook Express, on my computer, to “remind” me that I need to clean the toilets or send out a birthday card or even put clothes in the dryer! It’s like having my own personal secretary!
Sometimes life gets especially hectic—sicknesses, unexpected guests, circumstances beyond my control. At these times, the schedule goes out the window, the grime builds up in the bathrooms, the beds don’t get made, and I forget loved ones’ birthdays. At these moments, I need to remember that my time is just a gift from God. He only asks that I be a wise steward and do the best I can. He brings events into my life, and only He knows what special blessings those crazy times will bring. But I also know that as soon as I can, I need to get “back on track” and live a priority-driven life.
In all this planning and busy-ness, I believe God is molding me. He uses the mundane things of life to change my character. He replaces laziness with purpose, cluttered living with order, craziness with calm. As Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” I can rest assured that as I order my life around God’s priorities, He will create beauty from my feeble efforts.