This post is for those of us who are feeling under the pile. It will take about 7 minutes to read.
I was counseling a younger mother the other day who has little ones. She was discouraged and overwhelmed to the point of tears by the amount of things that needed to be done that she just couldn’t finish… we all know that deal, right? Laundry, meals, doctor’s appointments, email, praying for our kids, HAIR if you have daughters and maybe HAIR, HAIR, HAIR if you have daughters of color, policing technology, college visits and move ins… the list is gargantuan. And that is not an exaggeration. Mamas, our lists ARE EVER-FLOWING WITH TASKS! There is always more to do at home. More to do in the training up of our children. It feels like too much because it IS too much.
As I was praying over my to do list a couple of days ago, I asked the Lord to bless the work of my hands. To multiply my time and my energy and to strengthen me with purpose and motivation for His glory. It is my standard “To Do List” prayer. But this time He said something surprising back.
“Daughter, what have you already done for Me?”
I stared back blankly. I had no answer. I had never really even considered this before.
You see, I only look at what I have to do. I NEVER SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE. I never rest my head on my pillow at night and say, “Wow! Look at all I accomplished today for You Lord through Your power. Look at all the tasks done that really matter to You. I feel your pleasure over me Jesus and I embrace that pleasure for myself!”
Mama, do you know that most days you accomplish mighty victories for Christ with your kids? Do you know that He is pleased with you and do you sense this Great Pleasure?
Most days, you show up to motherhood. You love, pray for and care so deeply for your babies it hurts parts of your soul you never knew existed. You get up when you are exhausted, you go to work to provide, you hold your kids and whisper Jesus into their hearts when you really just want to run away and your greatest desire is that they would know, love and obey the Lord.
That counts, mama. I want you to know THAT COUNTS.
But the best news is that is not the ONLY thing that counts. Even more than those accomplishments count to Christ.
I have something I want you to do (ha! that sentence drips with irony!) and I only want you to spend 10 minutes on it.
I want you to make a list of everything you have done in the past 3 days.
Cram it with as much as you can think of in 10 minutes. Actually, I want you to TRY to write it all down. You won’t be able to. Because the truth is
YOUR DONE LIST IS LONGER THAN YOUR DO LIST.
But today’s world with its pressure to “have it all, be it all, do it all” pushes us towards a relentless pursuit of busyness and perfection, and we miss that truth. The list that God focuses on, the one filled with sacrifice and perseverance, is the real “laundry list.” Imagine… every time you nursed, every time you prayed, every time you changed a diaper, corrected a little one or gave your child to the Lord… think about it. THAT’S the list that counts with God. And it is still growing. Every day you add to it.
So… get out a pen and paper.
Here are some questions to get you started:
Did you drive any members of your family anywhere? Did you comfort any of them? Did you clean anything? Run an errand? Did you pray for them? Did you change any diapers? Do any laundry? Encourage anyone? Make a bottle or sippy cup? Pack a back pack, make a lunch? Ask for forgiveness? Discipline anyone? Cook anything? Hug anyone? Tell any of your kids you loved them? Plan anything on their behalf? Read a story? Send them a text? Teach them anything? Sign anything? Attend anything on their behalf? Give when you felt you had nothing left?
How’s that list looking?
You see, in God’s economy, all of these things matter. He delights in every detail of our lives (Psalm 37:23) so He must be IN every detail. Even the vomit-cleaning, fight-mediating, carpool-driving, school-shopping, laundry-folding, gas-pumping-so-you-can-drive-all-week, highchair-wiping, crying-in-your-pillow details.
Often, Satan comes at us with a truth cloaked in a lie to break us, to wound and distract us from the mission of motherhood. We bite because we want to deal in truth. He tells us the truth (and it IS true) that we will never get it all done. He also whispers the truth that we are not enough. But he cleverly drapes that truth in expectations that are not from God and hides in the folds lies that say, “You are not cut out for this. You are damaging your children. See, you can’t even finish that load of laundry. Your house is a mess. You didn’t pray with them once today. And you set a bad example with your eating habits (or anger or impatience).. again. You are a bad mother.”
But that is a lie. The reason I will never get the entire house cleaned and organized, stay on top of everything at work, have ripped abs, be a sex-kitten in the sack with my husband after running after toddlers all day and still have energy to eat right and pack Pinterest perfect lunches and live in a Pottery Barn home is because
GOD HAS NOT CALLED ME TO ALL OF THAT.
Those are the expectations of the world and of my own sinful, competitive, perfectionist nature. So many mamas, myself included, have these looming lists and unattainable expectations lurking in the back of their hearts. Sometimes when we pass by our kids’ rooms, or the mirror after our shower or see the pee stains in the darndest places in the boys’ bathroom we let out a big, defeated, weary sigh, don’t we? We sigh and as we exhale the enemy and our own pursuit of perfection is ready and waiting to lay a burden on our shoulders that Christ never calls us to carry. The burden called, “There is just so much to do and it all must be done so well.”
But what if we flip that? What if we look long and hard at the other side of that coin? That’s why I made that list for myself. And I’m still going. As I read my DONE list I let out a different kind of sigh. A sigh that is not a burdensome one but one of release. I found myself nodding my head and saying, “All right girl. You are doing a good job. In spite of what you thought you are, actually, getting after it. So what if you didn’t get to that project? Look at all you DID accomplish!” And you know what? I’m pretty sure I heard the enemy curse on his way out the door. But more importantly, a different Someone was waiting to put a different something on my shoulders. As I released the burden of being consumed with the to do’s
THE PLEASURE OF MY LORD AND SAVIOR WASHED OVER ME AND HE LAID ON MY SHOULDERS HIS YOKE, WHICH IS EASY AND LIGHT AND FILLED WITH BLOOD-STAINED LOVE.
It is so easy to forget how much we do. It is so easy to overlook how meaningful the mundane is to Jesus. And if it is meaningful to Him, it better be meaningful to me. Ever prayed to have the heart and mind of Christ? This is what that is all about. We can’t get here and STAY here (that’s the trick!) if we don’t ask for God’s eyes on our life. Most days I wake up with the world’s eyes. How do I look? How do I sound? How do I seem? Is my stomach fitting in my pants or has the muffin-top won the day? Or, even worse, I just flat out go about my day without giving Him a second thought. It’s my show. My day. My list. But those days always end the same way. My shame. My guilt. My idolization of whatever crumb of perfectionism my finite brain perceived.
So, mamas, keep pressing for Christ. Keep running with the goal in mind. Keep making those to do lists. But make another list alongside it. It is a great way to keep the enemy on the run in your motherhood. Keep track of all you’ve DONE.
Jesus is. And it is enough.
(I don’t want to assume that all you mamas are just struggling with your to do lists. Some of you may really be under a different kind of pile. Perhaps depression is darkening the doorway of our heart? Find help if you are struggling with more than the normal in the Baltimore/DC area here and if you are located elsewhere find help here.)