I’ve been browsing Large Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family by Kim Brenneman off and on for the past several months. Our family hardly qualifies as large at this point, but it intrigues me how a mother of nine children manages to accomplish all she sets out to while I spend the majority of my days with two (and before with one) feeling like there is never enough time. It seems reasonable to think I could implement some good systems at this point in our lives so that maybe a few children down the road I won’t be a complete crazy person. (Some degree of craziness is certain.) The first half of her book has turned out to be the most beneficial, as it sets out to put my heart in order first and foremost. And as I’ve worked through the “practical steps” chapters, I’ve picked up little things that I think will eventually help put us at least a step up from chaos. I recommend it.
One of the best things I learned in this book of plans is that sometimes you have to scrap the plan. It’s something I’ve been challenged by my whole life – I like to have a plan. I don’t want to deviate from the plan. And I want to be in control of the plan. As you all probably know well, that doesn’t always work. Marrying a non-planner has forced me to grow in this area. Poor Hadley has inherited my desire for a plan and control. 🙂 So very early in our marriage, our family decided to memorize Proverbs 16:9: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Plans are tools that we use to serve and help us – we do NOT serve the plan (I think I got that in the book). People are more important than plans. And God is bigger than any plans we could possibly make – he has the big picture – and we want to live Spirit-filled lives that are sensitive to his leading, and not be so rigidly defined by a to-do list.
That said, I love a good to-do list. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with making plans. They are useful tools. Lately I’m often resigned to sitting on the couch all. day. long. if I don’t have at least a rough idea of what I need/want to accomplish that day. I started making a weekly to-do list and having a Sunday night planning time. (I’m a freak, I know. Though I know there’s someone out there who would appreciate this.) I make our calendar for the week, our menu, fill in tasks and projects that I’d like for us to get done, make my grocery and errand lists. I admit it – I love it. I don’t know about you, but my big to-do list for the week often goes untouched. I never have mastered making them actually, well, achievable. Often at the beginning of the next week it’s just a matter of copying from one to the next. But I do things every day! It’s just that, once they’re done, they have to be done again the next day. Sometimes it feels aimless and discouraging.
One thing Brenneman suggests in her book is having a list of standard tasks/routines, a list for each week, each room, etc. Then, when you get overwhelmed by all there is to do, you just look at the list and do the next thing. It brings focus back to an aimless day and gives a sense of achievement. Now, let’s be honest. I will probably never achieve the structure and systems that she prescribes. But I did put together a few general lists – daily, weekly, monthly, and occasionally. My daily list includes things like showering, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, emptying the dishwasher, making breakfast, having a quiet time…you get the idea. It may sound silly to you to be so detailed, but sometimes, those are the only things I’m able to accomplish in a day because Hadley is need of constant attention or we are out running around or I got three hours of sleep and can’t do much else. It’s frustrating to look at my list for the week and think, “I didn’t do anything today.” But it’s this little psychological exercise to be able to look at my daily list with a few things checked and not feel like a total failure. And on the days where the motivation is lacking, I can look at it and “just do the next thing.” And tomorrow, I can erase it and start again.
I appreciate what this blogger writes, that God gives us the grace we need for TODAY. It might not mean that the day looks like we planned. But it means that in obedience I can trust God to equip me to do what I need to do today, even if that is being up in the middle of the night with a sweet, wide-eyed baby, or sitting on the couch and reading books with a four-year-old. I don’t always (or maybe ever), but I pray God is changing me to handle those bumps with grace. And that he is teaching me to suck it up a little more, get off the couch, and do the next thing.