When my children were all young, I would frequently hear the question, " How you do it all?" My reply was always, "Not very well." But the truth is, I did do things very well. I had a perfect routine to get me through the hardest hours of the day. I kept things simple and well-timed in order to maintain balance, when I had four children, under the age of three.
I had to. It was a matter of survival.
The morning would begin with a round of breakfast, then the two older boys would play and watch Little Bear while I bathed the twins and dressed them for the day. Then I would lay the twins down for their morning nap while I bathed the boys and picked up toys, dressed them and then we could go somewhere for the day. I say "for the day" but that really only consisted of the time period between 11am and 1pm. Usually I would take them to Chick-fil-a and the duck pond and we'd head back home for afternoon naps. I needed one too...
Nap time was the most peaceful, wonderful time of the day back then. I would read, write or just rest. Then at 4 o'clock life would again move at warp speed with cooking, dinner, bottles, baths and pajama applications, ending in a heap of exhaustion at 8pm.
Those days were overwhelming but still manageable. Although my kids dress themselves now, their needs are different and still demand a great deal of my time. The complication to their developing needs are multiplied by the fact that I can't put their changing requests into a simple routine. I never know, from what day to the next what will be required of me. Just being a mother of teenagers alone is enough to cause adaptivity failure. I cannot tell you how many times per week, that I hear, "Oh Mom, I forgot to tell you" and you can fill in the blank with: ...science homework, worship practice, birthday party....and the list goes on.
How do I manage this?
I find myself scratching my head or wiping my brow trying to figure out how to manage the things I am yet to find out about. Not possible.
What I can do, is determine that I will adapt with grace and plan for the unexpected. I don't always like to adapt...OK honestly, I NEVER like these kinds of surprises. But I know that although my children may not remember that they need special supplies for a project till the morning of, they do remember that I moved heaven and earth to get them to the school before 3rd period.
When your aim is to do things well, working in an unpredictable environment makes that rather difficult and mostly impossible. So during my mini-meltdown I poured out my heart to my dad about my frustration. I call it a mini-meltdown because there weren't any relational conflicts, this disturbance was all internal for me. I was having feelings that could not be ignored.
"I just want to do one thing well," I said to my dad through tears, "Is that too much to ask?" He immediately understood what I meant and he instructed me on how he navigated through similar seasons. He shed light on the fact that when we are responsible for many different realms we have to establish, what doing something well, really means. We may not be the ones who have months to perfect a message or years to make a plan but that does not mean we do not conduct ourselves with excellence. No matter the planning or practice, there is no excellence without grace. The grace of God is the enabling power to fulfill His will.
As my dad and I conversed, I pointed out the way in which I was comparing myself to others.
My friends and fellow female ministers, travel and speak. Since they are at a different venue all the time, they are able to refine a few particular messages that they can use over and over. For me this isn't an option. As a minister in a local congregation, I want to bring something fresh and new each time I speak. My goal as a pastor is not to have a perfect message but instead to have THE perfect message to bring growth and development. I don't have weeks and months to work on one message. So my measure of excellence in the delivery of a memorized message is an unfair assessment of myself.
Knowing that God would not set me up to fail, I thought, "Perhaps I have been measuring the wrong thing?"
What if my one thing, done well, is my ability to attend to life's interruptions with grace and adaptability?
Although that "one thing" is not something crowds applaud, it is something that makes other people successful. So if I really want to do "one thing" well, then in my mix of gifts and circumstances, I can make that "one thing" serving the needs of others.
Could it be that in desiring to do one thing well, we miss the fact that we already are doing a spectacular job at something invaluable? Like me, there could be 'one thing' you are focusing on as the symbol of success and polish while God is observing another 'one thing' you do that really pleases Him. I would like to challenge you to re frame your definition of excellence.
This shift in my understanding has brought so much balance to my life. My new perspective challenges me to see surprises and interruptions as a means of using my abilities to please God, when before, I would see these things as keeping me from being all I was meant to be.
You may wonder why things fall in your lap at the last minute, or why you are the appointed referee in relationships, or maybe you have to make up for the dead weight at work...the list could go on, very specifically and lengthy. But next time when you ask yourself, "Why is it always me who has to...?" remember that it may be because you are the living definition of success, for others. Many people must know that they can count on you for this "thing" you do well.
My mini-meltdown was associated with the fact that I was unsure that I was pleasing God. My main goal in life is not to hear applause or accolades about the things I can do well. However, I wanted to be sure that I was living my life at the level of excellence worthy of the grace of God given me. I needed to hear that allowing these interruptions was not a failure to serve God. I had previously seen it as neglecting to invest my own talent (referencing the parable of the talents) in lieu of helping someone else invest theirs, while doing nothing with mine. Instead, I came to understand that laying down my plans and preferences in order to meet a need was the most pleasing I could be to God. Serving other's can never be interpreted as a wasted investment of time. If I don't have enough time to serve others and bring my abilities to the standard of excellence worthy of God's best, then God will increase my productivity so that I can do both. There is no way to lose if we put other's before ourselves!
I know this is true: that when you hear this ONE THING, ...nothing else matters!
"Well done, my good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21 NIV)