I worry that posts like my lesson plans will give the misguided impression that I’ve got it all together. I often have it together for weeks at a time, but inevitably I hit the skids. I can only maintain organization for limited amount of time. Truly, my life is like spinning plates. I’ve manage to get them up there spinning well, so I add more. Then those are whirling like a dream, and I add more. But, eventually, I’ve got too many spinning, and I drop one. Then another. And, if I’m not careful, all of the them come crashing down in a loud clatter.

I constantly overschedule. God created me to be relationship-oriented, an encourager, and a servant. I LOVE to say, “yes.”

“Yes, I can run that committee for you.”

“Yes, I can meet for coffee and talk about that.”

“Yes, I can…”

But like the plates, soon I’ve said yes too many times. Before long, I’ve forgotten a birthday, an email, or the power bill. Most often though, homeschool suffers. We get it done, but it’s scattered, inconsistent, and crammed in around everything else.

Several years ago, our small group read The Simple Life by Art and Thom Ranier. That book taught me about prioritizing and saying “no” to good things. The things I say “yes” to are all good, worthy endeavors, but they aren’t necessarily the right things for me to be devoting my time. So I should say no.

Just because I know this doesn’t mean I’m the best at implementing the philosophy. Saying yes is part of my DNA. I always want to help, listen, or hang out. My age and health compound the problem. I am capable of less than I was five years ago. My own limitations are a bitter pill to swallow.

I didn’t just write this post to whine. I have solutions. There are some basic principles I apply that help me when my plates are gyrating wildly and ready to collapse.

  1. Have a list of priorities. Like the homeschool mission statement I mention in my Relax series, you need to know God’s vision for you and how that plays out in your daily life. I’d list mine, but it has subsections and amendments. It’s  too long. However, it can basically be summarized by God first, family and I second, ministry third, hobbies/friends fourth.
  2. Obligate your time and resources based on your priorities. Time at home is important to our family. So I don’t schedule activities too many nights in a row.
  3. Recognize when you’ve overscheduled. I’ve gotten much better at this. It used to be that I only realized there was a problem when everything crashed, but now I catch on when things start to wobble.
  4. Reevaluate obligations based on number one.
  5. Be humble. Swallowing your pride and telling someone you’ve messed up is hard. The most difficult email I ever wrote was to a charity dear to my heart explaining why I couldn’t help like I’d promised. It was painful and embarrassing, but they needed to be free to find someone more available.

A few months ago, I had returned from vacation on a Sunday. Monday, I drove my niece to have her wisdom teeth removed. I spent the rest of the week caring for her. On Saturday, she was still having massive pain. The laundry from vacation remained unwashed. My congregation had a service project. A sweet toddler had a birthday party. And I was signed up to clean the church. Hubby had his own hands full, so he couldn’t help. It was too much. I drove myself crazy trying to figure out how to make all of it work in one day. I remember crying and praying for God to show me a plan.

Of course, His answer was to say “no.” It was physically impossible to accomplish all I had planned. Once I submitted to the idea that I had to say no to something, well, more than one thing, that put me at number three above. I recognized the problem. I incorporated number four. Family is important for me, so sick niece and laundry were number one. I don’t think anyone would have appreciated my crew running around naked. Birthday party had to go. After that, I ranked cleaning the church above the community project. There were several members of the congregation participating, but I was the only one scheduled to clean.

Finally, step five. It’s never easy to back out of activities you’ve agreed to on the day of the event, but sometimes you have no choice. First, a text to my associate pastor. Next, the party. It was for one of my dearest friend’s sons. I’d known this boy from before his birth. It broke my heart to tell her I couldn’t come. But I texted her the truth. “I’m overwhelmed. We can’t come today.” My sweet sister-in-Christ was gracious and easy. She said she was glad I could be honest with her and gently let me off the hook.

All of this is on my mind because I’ve found myself in the same place again. Tot’s school has been haphazard for the last couple of weeks. His education is one of my highest priorities, so something had to change. I’ve spent the last several days reprioritizing and dropping good things out of my schedule. I think I’ve found the right number of plates… for a few weeks anyway 🙂