You can't do it all

I have been blessed with a full life.  We have a little homestead, and we educate our children at home.  We eat mostly from scratch and try to involve ourselves in ministry when possible.  I like to write, knit, sing, entertain visitors, read, and more.

I am periodically asked by non-homeschoolers, or people who don't live out in the country, "How do you do it all?" 

The answer is simple.   I don't!

For one thing, I often don't do it all at once.  There are times when I am intensely focused on homestead-related projects (especially in the spring), and times when the garden is woefully neglected or even non-existent because my focus is on school.  I rarely pick up my knitting between March and September.  We have begun to understand the rhythm of the year and don't try to do everything all the time.

For another, my house is less than pristine.  I am schedule-challenged... I am not one of those women who has the house running like clockwork, meals at a specific time (and punctual), no-compromise bedtimes.  I often fantasize of a perfect life with a perfect schedule.  A nicely paced schedule, a little done on each task each day.  Repeatedly I've tried to translate my fantasies into reality by implementing The New Perfect Schedule and repeatedly I have forgotten to watch the clock, or even look at the list.

Most importantly, people come first.  There have been times when I have had to take a deep breath and make a conscious decision to set my agenda aside, and seize the moment to have a heart to heart with a questioning child.  Or to spend hours addressing a character issue.  Or to listen to and pray for a burdened friend.  Many tasks are left undone when you make people the priority.

I have a friend who is amazingly successful at keeping her large homeschooled family on schedule.  Her house is always tidy, her schedule always intact.  In addition to this, she cooks from scratch and enjoys crafting.  I try to glean ideas from her when I can.  I am in awe of this mom.  Yet recently, I learned that she feels like she spends more time cleaning the house than enjoying her children. This is something she wants to change.

I have another friend who has a lovely tidy home, very well behaved children, and has designed a rigorous and amazing educational program for her children.  Another inspirational mother.  Yet she is yearning for a heart connection with her children that she feels is missing.

These two women, both of whom I love and admire greatly, may be different from me, yet, like me, they want more.  They see that something in their life is not as they want it to be, even though to me, looking in from outside, it looks perfect.

Two things come to mind.

The first is obvious... you just can't judge a book by its cover.   You can't truly know what is in a person's heart by looking at how she orders her life.  And you shouldn't even try (have a look at Matthew 7:1-2).

The second is more subtle.  None of us can do it all.  But each of us has God-given strengths that are blessings.

We are called to do our absolute best and that will look different for each of us.  There is great danger in comparing our lives to others'.  I would go so far as to say we can fall into the sin of coveting (one of the Ten Commandments!) if we don't guard our minds in this area.

It's not that we should be complacent, or wallow in our failings.  It is not okay for me to say "I am just a messy person."  I have a responsibility to try to figure out a better way to manage the details, not only to bring greater peace into our home, but also because my children need to know how to develop habits that will bring peace to their own lives now, and as adults.

However, we need to keep our flaws in perspective.  I have a tendency to look at my life as if through a telescope, bringing certain issues into great focus (and magnification) and leaving the rest to be obscured by that black perimeter.  For me this can become self-defeating... if I focus intensely on, and become discouraged by, my weaknesses, I become less able to function well in the areas which come naturally to me.  If I panic about a messy room and start fussing at my children, I put pressure on the heart connections that we have already built.  When my children look back on their childhoods, a grouchy mother will be more memorable than a cluttered school room.  And I'd prefer to not be storing grouchy-mama-memories up in my children.

We just can't do it all, mamas, but we can trust that God knew what He was doing when He gave each of us our children.  We can also be grateful that because of our imperfections, our children will have one more reason to know that they need a Savior.  We will make mistakes.  We will hurt their feelings. 

Hear it again.

You can't do it all.  

Do what you do best, with all your heart.  Don't compare yourself to the other mothers around you.  They are struggling too.  And join me in offering your failings to God to be redeemed.  When He does, you and I and everyone who loves us will know that it was God's miraculous hand.  And He will be glorified!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Excellent post, and timely, too. We just aren't meant to be able to do it all. We ARE designed, however, to live relationally. If I try to convince myself I can/should do it all, I run the risk of pulling back from relationship, including my most important relationship, that with God.


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