When Your To-Do List Gets Trashed

Jenny Schermerhorn

Published: Jul 02, 2013
When Your To-Do List Gets Trashed
I've always loved my lists, day planner and smart phone reminder app. My goals were planned, accomplished, and evaluated annually. Then, I had children.

I’ve always loved my lists, day planner and smart phone reminder app.  When I was younger, I planned each day in half-hour increments, gym class, check; client meeting, check; date night, check.  My goals were planned, accomplished, and evaluated annually.  

Then, I had children.  Enter upheaval, interruptions and uncertainty.  I spent the first few months in shock, could children really take this much time and care? Was I doing something wrong?  I tried amending my to-do lists, whittling them down to just a few items, but I couldn’t even seem to find time for a shower, much less my cleaning schedule.  After such a scheduled, goal-oriented life I felt aimless and honestly -- useless.  I didn’t have anything to show at the end of each day. I tried to be satisfied with me and my young kids making it through the day healthy and fed, but compared to what I was used to- it didn’t seem like enough.

I wish I could say that after a few months I made peace with my new reality and started to thrive.  But honestly, this adjustment was a slow and painful process that took several years.  Years of admitting my pride, seeking God’s truth and perspective and handing over my days one at a time. 

For a time I tried to throw out all of my planning and force myself to be a tie-dye hippie mom who didn’t care about schedules or plans or even know what day of the week it was. It didn’t work.  That’s just not who I am.  I had to admit that planning was part of the personality God created within me, and instead of trying to eradicate that part of myself, I brought all of myself to God in prayer. 

God spoke gently to me as I asked him over and over “what do you want my life to look like right now?”  His word pointed me to the principles of service and love. 

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” (Mark 10:45).

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

God showed me that His plans for my day to day reality, plans for me to love and serve others, can be accomplished even when I have nothing to strike off a list. I also realized how little I had previously considered His desires for my daily life and now find joy placing my day under His sovereignty and direction.  The famous Christian writer C.S. Lewis describes our daily struggle to nest our plans under God’s like this:

“It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in."

Listening to that other voice means seeking a life that is guided by Christ and not self. 

I have become (a little) better at this with practice, but it is not easy.  I still miss the satisfaction I feel when I accomplish a long list of tasks.  And planning and achieving goals is certainly not wrong, but for me those days and years of calendars and lists were quite a lot about me, my goals, my desires . . .  and these days are more about God’s direction and those around me.  Keeping my eyes on God and His hopes and dreams keeps me more winsome and open to change and unexpected assignments than my thirty minute day planner ever would have allowed.

So as I begin each day I still have things I want to accomplish but I also take the time to imagine what God would write on my list and what He would strike off.  And this acknowledgement of His Sovereignty and call on my life towards love and servanthood is causing a “stronger, quieter life” to flow in, even in the midst of this crazy stage of motherhood. I’ll take that over an accomplished to-do list any day. 

Jenny Schermerhorn is a writer, speaker and mama. She blogs about hope, humor and modern life at www.reallifemamas.com