Awhile ago, I had another one of those nights. Every once in awhile, I can’t sleep because I feel so discouraged. My mind is flooded with thoughts of my inadequacy, my failures and my disappointments. “How can we have accomplished so little today?” “Why can’t I even get the basics done some days?” “Why, when I am called to homeschool, do I struggle so much?” As I lie there awake, one word flashes over and over, beating inside my mind almost as if it were my own heartbeat. Failure. I feel like a failure. And, worst of all, I feel like I cannot escape it. I am called to do something that I simply cannot do.
I recognize I am never expected to work alone nor am I expected to equip myself, but what does a mother do when neither the help nor the equipping seem to come? She asks again.
At times, I have prayed and prayed and the answer has been that it is my expectations, not my inability to meet them, that is the problem. As a boss provides tools and training for employees only to do their own job, I have been given what I need, but only for what He asks of me. I spend a lot of time stressing about jobs that are not mine to do. In this case, the answer is simple (though not always easy), mind my own business and focus on my own job. I am to align my expectations to the One who has called me.
This night was decidedly different. I was not struggling with expectations of having a home that was as neat as a pin, perfectly obedient children or a homeschool rich with daily study of painting, nature and music. I was struggling because on way too many occasions, I lay in bed knowing the even though I had worked hard all day, I had not spent deliberate time with my Lord or I had not finished math with my children or I had not worked on my youngest’s reading or we had not read the Bible as a family. There were way too many days I had not finished the very basic things that would leave me feeling as if I had successfully finished His tasks for me.
I arose from my bed and went downstairs to pray and consider. Mercifully, the answer came simply (and quickly this time). “Do the next thing.” God truly makes me laugh sometimes! I love it when He just gets down and dirty and speaks to me in a nice, simple cliché.
I quickly realized it was to be a kind of motto for each day. With this on my mind, I considered what was “the next thing” to be in my home? I made a list:
- Spend time with my Lord
- Read the Bible to the kids
- Do math and reading
“Do the next thing” for me has become not a survival technique, such as “I’ll just get through this one next thing,” but rather a powerful way to lend a sharp focus to my efforts at home. Each time I go to do something, I ask myself, “Is this the next thing?” If the answer is “No”, I make sure I have a good reason to continue. For example, taking a toilet-training toddler to the potty when he asks trumps just about everything except maybe blood. Checking my e-mail is very rarely an acceptable insert between the above three. Same thing with tossing in laundry, reading blogs, calling friends or knitting.
Amazingly, when I keep these priorities in front of me, not only do I continually end the day feeling truly successful, but I find I have the time for all kinds of things I struggled to find time for in the past. When I do have a particularly difficult or busy day, I rest easy knowing that I have usually at least finished the important things.
God has been so faithful and gracious to me. Rarely does He answer in such a clear and such an immediately helpful way. His way is usually slow and steady. I am desperately grateful for the way He answered this time to ease my burden and make things so simple for me.
(By the way…I’ve had this blog post written up for several days, but it taken this long for typing it up to publish to be ‘the next thing’!)