“…the wise of heart will know the proper time and procedure.”
For as long as I can remember I have fought the feeling that I have too much to do. Too many errands, too many deadlines, too long a to-do list. Too many things I should have done but didn’t because I had too much to do.
And often— too often— that too-much-to-do feeling has turned me anxious, fretful, and inevitably crabby.
Do you know what I mean? Is that your story too?
Or are you like all the women I put up on a pedestal— cool, efficient, and AMAZING? You know who I’m talking about:
They post pictures of their four-year-old’s Princess Party on Pinterest. Gauze and glitter, crowns on every child (and DIY directions on how you can make them for under a dollar!). The birthday girl looks overwhelmingly happy, not a tear or a temper tantrum in sight.
The women who manage to keep their house perfectly clean, their clothes perfectly stylish, and their lives perfectly managed. Women who never lose anything, never run out of anything, and are never, ever late.
Oh! And whose Christmas gifts are wrapped in perfectly coordinated paper— of course.
I am not one of those.
And if you’re not either, I’d like to share with you some things I’m learning about what to do when that feeling of too-much-to-do begins to choke your joy. And how not to let your LIST chase your dreams right out to the rubbish heap where dreams go to die.
1. Rejoice by choice.
I know that sounds hokey but it’s a phrase that has stuck in my head and keeps coming back to me whenever I’m running helter-skelter to get more done than I am capable of doing.
The apostle Paul was stuck in prison and couldn’t do or accomplish anything! Instead of going crazy and complaining, he chose to “continue to rejoice”, dictating a letter to a group of Jesus followers for whom it had “been granted on behalf of Christ… to suffer for Him” the “same struggle” as Paul was enduring.
Here’s Paul’s motto: “Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all.”
Rejoicing by choice replaces stressfulness with gentleness.
2. Hide and Abide
Once, years ago, I was hiking high in the Alps with Phil and some friends. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed with a sense of panic— the drop on either side of the path was dizzyingly steep. I froze. The only way I could get down that peak was by putting my hands on Phil’s back as he led me step by step down the mountain. I think of that often when I remind myself to hide my face in the One who loves me like no other.
By hiding in, and abiding with Jesus, we can make it step by step down any mountain we face.
3. Get your Assignments from God
When I wake up every morning early enough to spend a luxurious amount of time listening to the Father, He directs the paths of my day. Which is why I make my list after I’ve spent time in the Word.
I get my list from God by knowing who I am and who I’m not, lest I try to be superwoman. Or someone else: my best friend, that woman I admire, or the pretend person I follow like a puppy dog, wishing I were her.
I cannot do everything but I can do the all-things God has assigned just for me.
4. Know your Big Thing
The same man who rejoiced by choice, had purposefully cleared his life of anything that wasn’t about his God-given purpose. That specific, clarified purpose gave him the power in Christ to “strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”  It was Paul’s Big Thing.
For most of my adult life, my God-given purpose was raising four children to love God with all their might and mind, soul and strength. Now that’s changed. Now my Big Thing is to invite women to know God intimately, to learn to listen to His Voice. And it’s also to partner with Phil to teach parents to intentionally raise children who become passionate Jesus followers. All the while, continuing to do all I can to help my own children raise the next generation of passionate Jesus followers.
Your Big Thing is that one thing that, if you found out your death was imminent, you would regret you hadn’t done.
5. Turn your Dreams into Goals
What do you dream about doing and being? What do you wish for in those quiet moments when you can listen to the longing in your heart?
I’m not talking about dreaming of cruises and castles and becoming a super star. I mean those God-given dreams, the things He has equipped you for but life keeps getting in the way and you’re afraid you’ll never do what you know God has called you to do.
Rather than spend your life simply wishing, what if you laid it all out before God and under His guidance dared to turn your dreams into actual, bona fide goals?
Goals are dreams purposely put on the calendar.
What a difference might it make if instead of forging ahead, list in hand, working harder, smarter, better, and more, we chose instead…
to tuck ourselves in close to the Father,
to get our assignments only and always from God,
to ask Him what is our Big Thing, and then
to confidently put His dreams for me onto my calendar?
From a heart learning wisdom,
P.S. How are you learning to tame your to-do list? I'd love to know.