How to Figure Out Your Priorities. When You’re Bad at Figuring Out Your Priorities. {Part 1}

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It’s embarrassing for me to admit but I have a tendency to make all of the things important all of the time. In any given minute, my mind is like the tornado scene from the Wizard of Oz with people and places and projects all flashing in front of my eyes and I can’t figure out what to focus on before something else appears into my line of sight.

Far too many days have ended with a perplexed Marian wondering how she stayed so very busy accomplishing nothing.

January is still upon us and for that reason, our minds and motivations are still fresh with hope and possibility for new and improved versions of ourselves. I don’t have any hard and fast resolutions, nor have I scribbled down a single goal. But new beginnings invite us to ponder our priorities and I’ve been doing just that.

It’s the second year that all three of my kids are at school from 8:00 until 2:30 every day. I daresay I’ve gotten my bearings and settled into this new life of discretionary time and energy. It is both wonderful and challenging.

Wonderful because I’m able to recharge and come up for air as long as I maintain margin in my daytime schedule.

Challenging because I’m not 100% sure what I’m supposed to do with my life. It’s like I’m 18 again and wondering which direction to go, but with the responsibilities and upkeep of marriage, children, a home, and graying hair. Oh and half the energy of my late-teens self.

I’ve considered going back to my former vocation of college teaching.

I would so love to write for a living.

And I’ve considered tabling all of my personal endeavors and dreams until the kids are grown so that my family can receive my full energy.

I entertain all of these possibilities knowing that I’m a better wife, mom, and all around individual when I’m engaged in work that channels my God-given gifts and desires.

Yet I also believe that the toughest and most fruitful refining is born out of the places where I labor and serve even though I feel completely ill-equipped.

The gaps between my giftedness and my everyday callings are sacred places where my weaknesses invite God’s strength.

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The end-of-our-rope days usher in humility and stamp out pride. If we got to pick and choose our tasks based solely on our strengths, well, we’d be rather full of ourselves but emptied of God.

I’ve learned that I’m not as naturally gifted as I once assumed I would be at mothering. And nurturing. And homemaking. I appreciate the fruit of these pursuits done well. But I am not innately equipped with the strength to do them well.

Perhaps it’s a modern American thing. Or just a spoiled people thing. But we are all about our strengths these days. We feel rather entitled to the pursuits that only use our gifts instead of our grunt-work. I’m as guilty as anyone.

Using our strengths isn’t a bad thing. But zeroing in on our giftedness to the exclusion of the hard and necessary labors of the everyday isn’t a fruitful mindset. We may begin to resemble the Crawleys and friends on Downton Abbey, wanting the downstairs help to handle all of the unpleasantries for us {like getting dressed and fixing food and plaiting our silky aristocratic hair} so that we can get about the business of being the nobility and living a meaningful and important life. {Nothing against the Crawley family. I say this as if they’re real people who might actually read my blog and get offended.}

Lately I’ve become increasingly aware of my out-loud complaining of cooking and cleaning and making lunches and the constant laundry, forgetting that these things are the most fundamental and needful ways I can love those who mean the most to me.

Forgetting that these tasks are necessary, even though they’re not impressive or always enjoyable. Forgetting that God Himself has much to say about the dailyness of bread, the washing of feet, the importance of clothing those in need, the daily receiving of new mercies.

I’ve quoted her before but I love how Kathleen Norris writes so beautifully about these things:

The Bible is full of evidence that God’s attention is indeed fixed on the little things. But this is not because God is a great cosmic cop, eager to catch us in minor transgressions, but simply because God loves us — loves us so much that the divine presence is revealed even in the meaningless workings of daily life.

It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us to recognize that the creation is indeed refreshed like dew-laden grass that is ‘renewed in the morning’ or to put it in more personal and also theological terms, ‘our inner nature is being renewed everyday.’

Seen in this light, what strikes many modern readers as the ludicrous details in Leviticus involving God in the minutiae of daily life might be revisioned as the very love of God. A God who cares so much as to desire to be present to us in everything we do.

― Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women’s Work

 

This topic of motherhood and priorities and vocation — it’s one that has nipped at my heels for years, long before I even had children. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure it out, trying to bend it into a formula, looking for a bullet-point checklist in Scripture, reading books, squinting for a role model.

And at the end of the day, all I can come up with is Christ.

I write that as though this is a let-down or consolation gift but it’s the exact opposite. It’s surprise more than anything.

Here I am running around with all my books and my questions and my deep longing for answers. And instead, Christ shows up as the answer. I cry as I even type it out. My searching always lands me at the feet of Jesus.

The One who was both a servant and a savior.

The One who had a private life and a professional ministry.

The One who could have impressed us with his splendor but instead chose humility.

The One who is both our example and our strength, whether we’re male or female, ancient or modern, stay-at-home mom or high-profile attorney.

He calls us into all spheres and He promises to goes with us — into the boardrooms and lecture halls, kitchens and laundry rooms. He’s with us as we take up our microphones and also our toilet brushes.

He ordains the seasons and calls us to live abundantly and expectantly, but with acceptance in each and every one.

As women, our lives don’t all look the same and aren’t we thankful for that? Our differences offer such beauty. But our differences can also lead us to a place of insecurity and indecision. We’re prone to compare and compete and convince ourselves that we’re getting it wrong. Or we judge others and say that they’re the ones getting it all wrong.

That’s why we have to get back to the bare bones of our actual lives and our individual seasons on a regular basis. It’s why we have to grab the tornado by the tail and tell it to stop spinning.

When my mind is dizzied by too many possibilities and too much comparison, I’m prone to run ahead into places that aren’t for me. At least not for me right now. Every so often I need a good sobering up so that I’m able to evaluate my real priorities with purpose and intention.

Maybe you’re feeling a bit dizzy too and you need a companion to take you by the hand and lead you back home.

In my next post on this topic, that’s where we’re headed.

But it won’t be the very next post. First we’ll take a detour…

Because the very next post will be the next SALE!!! *throws confetti*

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I’m hoping to have it up Friday but it’s going to be tough so if not Friday, hopefully Monday. And I have the sweetest lineup of sweaters that will work now and carry you right into spring. *throws more confetti*

Don’t want to miss the next post in the series {or the next sale?} You can subscribe by e-mail in the box below. And of course you may unsubscribe anytime you like.

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I’d love to know your thoughts and questions on this complicated issue of life’s seasons — balancing family and vocation, honoring our God-given strengths yet also leaning into the weaknesses that our everyday roles require. It’s tricky, isn’t it?

We can dish in the comments section or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Comments

  1. says

    i have all the thoughts, really. i’ve done the same things: run ahead, try to fill in, figure out what’s next. i’ve come up with a whole lot of nothing other than i feel better and like i’m moving alive when i do creative things. honestly, i’d be embarrassed to list all the things i’ve considered during this season, because it doesn’t bely a strong sense of self. this fall, i took a big step back. let go of some responsibilities. let myself sit in quiet and small places. i think that’s what resonates with me most about this post: that we are not entitled to big, big, big all the time. i love that you shined a light on our culture’s voice in viewing our strength. basically, i love you. we still share a brain. the end.

    • says

      It’s always a treat to see you in my comments. : ) Thank you for the sweet sisterhood. It’s a comforting thing to know one isn’t alone in her reflective thoughts about things.

  2. says

    “He ordains the seasons and calls us to live abundantly and expectantly, but with acceptance in each and every one.” ~ Love this, but it also pierces my heart because I am so guilty of not fully embracing the season I’m in. I’m a work in progress. HE’s still working on me :)

  3. adriana says

    Marian, I just love your blog so so much. I am not a naturally astute homemaker too. And I always complain about making dinner (I am working on the complaining bit but it’s haaaaard). I love how you say that these are ways we show our love purely. Encouraging. Thanks so much!

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