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Around here, the end of summer is a busy time (read: CRAZY). Our life ebbs and flows with the rhythm of the public school system which, around here, starts just after Labor Day so while we’re wrapping up the last hurrah of summer with family and friends, we’re also frantically getting ready for school. Why do we start so late? Experience September in the Pacific Northwest and you’ll never have to ask again. It’s uh-may-zing.
As a coach of a fall high school sport with a husband who teaches physics at the same public school, I am pulled every which way in the two weeks leading up to that big first day in September. If I’m not at practice or planning for it, I’m in my husband’s classroom helping him get ready (I was a high school science teacher as well) or at home meal planning/prepping for the busy early days of the school year. Add to that an energetic toddler, the peak of the gardening season (aka canning for the winter/spring!) plus spiritual, relational, physical, financial, and domestic upkeep…I’m one tired mama.
So what happens to things farther down the priority list?
They don’t get done.
For a Type A, driven, achievement-oriented perfectionist like myself, this is devastating. I can’t begin to tell you the feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I find a to-do list in the middle of a pile of papers that has little to nothing checked off and at least 3 of the items [sorely] overdue. I’ve since made [a] new to-do list[s] with the same things on them and they’re somewhere else in the mess of my mind, home, and heart. Reading Hands Free Mama this summer made me feel less alone with the pain I’d been feeling deep inside as I felt like the frenzied pace of life was controlling me and I had no way to slow it down. It also gave me several clear steps on what to do (ah, more for the to-do list) to get away from this paralyzing problem.
How did it get this way? Why do I feel like I’m in such a bad spot?
I take on too much.
I underestimate how much time things will take.
I overestimate my ability to get things done.
I am terrible at saying no.
I derive my value from my accomplishments, from what I can tell people I’ve done.
Which brings me to the ultimate paradigm shift, something I’ve been working towards my entire adult life…
I am not measured by the breadth and length and height and depth of what I accomplish.
Instead, I am blessed with time and abilities to do all things I am intended to do through Christ’s strength and Christ’s strength alone.
I’ve been going through Ephesians using Kari Denker’s journaling guide. While I’ve read Ephesians more than a few times, when I got to the end of chapter 3, I was reminded, yet again, of the real source and power from which I am to derive my strength, motivation, and focus:
“…that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19
Let’s get back to that to-do list. Yes, it’s unfinished. Yes, things on there need to get done. But I avoided things on there in order to dwell more richly in the day to day joys of my growing family. I have been doing a [slightly though not much] better job being in the Word each day. I have been more consistent in my daily responsibilities on most fronts (physical, domestic, relational, etc) but I still haven’t finished that looming to-do list…blog posts that haven’t been written, baby gifts that haven’t been sewn, in-depth cleaning chores that aren’t staring me in the face but soon will be…
And that’s okay.
God doesn’t want us to measure ourselves by what we check off our to-do list each day. He wants us to measure ourselves by who we are in Him and then evaluate what we should be getting done, not the other way around.
By His strength,
I can learn how much I should take on.
I can adequately estimate how much time things will take.
I can evaluate the energy necessary to get things done and properly estimate my ability to finish them.
I can say no.
I can derive my value from what He says about me rather than my accomplishments.
So while I’ll still hold on to my to-do list – and still fill it up way too often – I can be at peace when things go unfinished. Because slowly…ever so slowly…I am becoming the woman He wants me to be. Through His strength, in His timing, with His power.