LEAVE THE “MADNESS” BEHIND
By Rachel Swanson
Craziness with work or school schedules.
Overwhelmed busyness with kids.
Unsuspected life challenges.
Let the “March Madness” begin!
I can relate to this crazy, hectic pace of being stuck in the busyness of life: shuttling 3 kids to preschool 3 times per week, working from home developing my ministries, and working outside the home part-time as a dental hygienist. I am also a full-time homemaker, trying to jam soul-filling time to re-connect with friends into my already packed agenda. I have speaking engagements, writing deadlines, meal-planning, never-ending laundry, grocery shopping, date-night moments squeezed in with my spouse, and…goodness…I try to remember to feed the dog every night (because let’s be honest, she has sadly become last on list of priorities).
I know full well what it is like to be overwhelmed with a busy life.
So how do we thrive amidst our busy schedules? How do we ensure that we are intentionally becoming who God made us to be, instead of becoming a very busy version of ourselves doing “good things” yet not pursuing the things that, perhaps, we were meant to be pursuing?
There are 3 things I do to figure out how to keep becoming who God made me to be and sort out the “madness” my calendar can bring:
1. First, PRAY for clarity and direction.
Whether you are overwhelmed with the current busy schedule in your life, or you are overwhelmed because you simply don’t know where to begin filling in those schedule gaps, always start with searching for direction and clarity through prayer. God knows what actions He wants you to pursue. He knows the path you are to take. Therefore, He will direct you on what to include in your schedule and what to take away. He knows how to create a healthy balance between cultivating your passions and desires, as well as ensuring your day-to-day responsibilities get met. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, yet we all need God’s help discovering the best use of those 24 hours in a day.
2. Next, make a list of top PRIORITIES.
In conjunction with the first step—inviting God into our “crazy” life through prayer—now let’s let Him coach us through what our top priorities are to help us find the right focus. My top priorities currently looks like this: 1- God-time, 2- Spouse/Me-time, 3- Kids/Family, 4- Ministry/Work, 5- Friendships. I usually weigh all the decisions I pursue in life through this set-up. If someone asks me to go to coffee with them, but I have a family obligation scheduled and our family really need this time to reconnect, then my family activity comes first. Or if I really want to veg-out to a movie one night, but the better option (and priority on my list) is to spend time connecting with God through Bible study, prayer, or journaling (something I hadn’t gotten to that day), I have a choice to make: to follow what I decided is a priority or follow distractions that interfere with my priorities. Deciding what my priorities are and adhering to them keeps me from saying “yes” to things that may interfere or distract me from pursuing the “yes’s” I should pursue. It also keeps me from getting overwhelmed with my already packed schedule and prevents other areas of my life from suffering. It’s all about trying to find a healthy balance. When I keep things balanced and stay aligned with my priorities I find myself thriving instead of simply surviving through life.
Often times, there are many good things that keep us busy, but even good things can keep us from pursuing the most important thing(s) that we should be prioritizing. For example, if I have a 4 hour window scheduled to pursue ministry related items that day which needs to get done, but a friend calls me the day before wanting to get together over coffee, I have a choice to make. Which is more important? The answer is not always black and white. Typically I have to go back to step one—pray to God—for clarity and direction on which path to choose. It could be that my friend desperately needs wisdom in her marriage, something important which might require my attention be turned to her that day instead. Or perhaps she simply wants to reconnect, which might be better scheduled for another time after I’ve completed my ministry work that day. These are those moments of indecision when we must submit ourselves to God—asking the Holy Spirit for help to determine what’s most important at that time. God has never steered me wrong.
3. Cut out DISTRACTIONS.
I am queen of following distractions! It leaves me feeling more stressed, less productive, and derails me from choices I believe I should have chosen instead. Not all distractions are bad (such as getting interrupted at a super market to help someone in need of a warm meal). Yet, there are certain things that keep me from becoming whom I’m meant to be in Christ. It keeps me from pursuing the priorities I’ve listed that are most important to me.
For example, I don’t have much time for television. Not that television in and of itself is bad, but it often keeps me from pursuing the items on my list of priorities. For me, I’ve basically cut out T.V. watching altogether. It has been amazing how much more productive I am with my time and the things I’ve accomplished without the unnecessary distraction of T.V.!
Another example is the social media distraction. Scrolling through Instagram, or Facebook. Especially when my priority in that moment should be intentionally investing my time into parenting my children. When my eyes are glued to my phone in front of my children, they know mom is distracted and not giving them the attention they need and deserve. Therefore, I’ve cut back on this distraction by keeping my cell phone in the bathroom, only checking it when I have to go do my “business.” Or sometimes I turn it off altogether to prevent the temptation of getting sucked into my phone instead of freeing my mind to engage with my children in their development. Tuning out these distractions promote healthier relationships with my family and intentional productivity towards the path and plan I believe God desires for me to pursue.
PRAY for clarity and direction. Make a list of PRIORITIES. Cut out DISTRACTIONS that keep you from investing your time into the things that are most important. Get ready to drop survival mode this “March madness” season and really thrive through the busyness life brings.
Eclectic couldn’t be a truer word regarding the passions that run wide and pursuits that run deep for Rachel Swanson. From her authentic writing captivating the hearts of women to her wild faith journey of foster-adoption with a home already filled with 3 toddlers to cleaning teeth as a dental hygienist part-time, she opens the door to all types of joy-filled and God-led excitement. Rachel is founder of Refine and Restore, a blog pouring out “R&R for the Heart and Soul.” She is also founder of Intimate Insights for Women, a ministry helping women explore God’s design for healthy sexuality in mind, body and soul. Rachel is a columnist for WholeMagazine.org, and also has articles published on (In)courage, MICI magazine, and more. In her “spare” time, she is re-developing the Intimate Insights curriculum for wider use, writing book manuscripts and proposals, and speaking/teaching to women on various topics. She’s been married nearly 10 years to her husband who loves her despite her love for coffee and often impulsive nature. They rear a tribe containing identical twin boys, Gavin and Rylan, and (19 months later) their baby girl named Aria… and a weimaraner who thinks she’s human. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or (her favorite) Instagram!
Author: Emily B. Cummins
Emily Cummins is a University of Florida & College of Central Florida grad who is passionate about partnering with people to become who they were made to be. Emily is the Online Campus Pastor at Church of Hope in Ocala, Florida. She’s passionate about storytelling, good cups of coffee, and jamming to country music. And most importantly, she’s passionately pursuing becoming the woman God made her to be.