What’s on Your Most Important List?

What’s on Your Most Important List?
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

1 PETER 5:7 NLT

We love our routines. The predictable, the workable, the structured control that makes us feel sane. Well, my family may not be any saner, but we sure depend on routine. For some, the school season begins to feel like a relay race where we try desperately to hold it all together. Mornings are a struggle, the dinner is burnt, and here we are at the steepest leg of the race, where we finally reach our breaking point. It’s bedtime, and we still can’t get our pajamas on without knocking the toothpaste into the toilet (true story).

You’d think that after a few years of the same routine we’d have it down, right? Maybe one day we will, but what really ends up happening is we dance the same clumsy steps and play that old, worn-out record on repeat. What do they say about doing the same things over-and-over again but expecting different results? Einstein was right, this is the definition of insanity.

Why is it so hard to make the transition from summer time to school days?

I recently asked my friends about the #1 thing they struggle with at the start of a new school year. The hardest part of the change seems to be adapting to a new routine. It’s also the most welcomed change, because we depend on the structure. As creatures of habit, routines help us and our children feel safe and secure.

Recently, I was listening to a new podcast by the brilliant Emily P. Freeman called The Next Right Thing. In one particular episode, Freeman discussed how we often move right into the next thing without taking a pause to reflect on the place we just were. She notes the importance of taking a moment to reflect before you move forward. Otherwise, the transition feels like a jolt and shock to our system.

As I listened to Freeman’s podcast, I thought about how I tend take off at break-neck speeds, headlong into the next moment without ever looking back. The sudden change in momentum shifts my gears into “fight or flight” mode. This means revving my emotional engine with high expectations, which leads to frustration and eventually burn out. I can become exhausted and end up crashing into a wall.

The hardest part of doing the next thing in a new season is finding balance.

By way of reflection, I decided to make my own “most important list.” I paid attention to what issues came up for me and my kiddo last school-year and what attitudes we entertained as a result. I did not want to be caught off guard when old habits rear their ugly heads again. So, I sat down with a piece of paper, folded it in half, and drew a line down the middle for two columns. On the left-side, I listed the daily rhythms that have been working for us. On the right-side, I listed the things that are sucking the life out of me.

It turns out, there are many life-giving routines we have in place which contribute to a sense of peace and balance in our family. However, rather than seeing all the soul-sucking things as problems, either to eradicate or ignore, I looked down the right column and saw patterns emerge. I found a few bad habits that had not been addressed and were causing more clash than rhythm in our day.

Yet after I finished my list and walked away, over the next few days something unexpected happened. I was thinking about my list and feeling like something essential was missing. I had been thinking about it all wrong. I placed it up high and felt both proud of myself and burdened to keep up the rhythm. If I stay perfectly in sync then my life will be in balance, right? Here’s the thing, what if balance is not about getting it all right?

In the kingdom of God, balance is about leveling the scales of justice with mercy. We find grace at the foot of the Cross.

Today we are gifted this moment, and sometimes life gets messy, yet in the middle of the mundane we find the beautiful. If I tie myself to a list, then pretty soon all the things begin to suck the wind out of me. If that happens, then even the life-giving parts get distorted, taking on the appearance of soul-sucking things.

The best way to view these matters is always through the lens of God’s word and by the light of his grace. This leads me to find balance and rest for my soul. The words of Jesus come rushing in to remind me of my one most important thing. “Martha, dear Martha…You are worried and upset over much…Only one thing is needed” (Luke 10:41-42).

If I remember my one thing and spend a few minutes sitting at Jesus’s feet, put that at the top of my list? Then I can view all the rest through the filter of God’s word. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else…and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33). How many of the things on my list am I worried about getting right today? How many of those does Jesus promise to take care of when I choose to seek him first? Everything. All the things.

If I bring my list and lay it all at the foot of the Cross…If I invite God’s Kingdom to reign in my tiny kingdom, then everything I need will be added by the measure of his grace. When I bring into focus what God says about me and what I know about his character as my loving Father…When I know that I am loved by God and that he is good, then I can see everything else in the light of his grace. As a result, my daily rhythm can begin to feel a little less soul-sucking and little more like breathing.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. –HEBREWS 4:16 NLT

If you are feeling spread thin and sucked dry by the endless demands of the day, I want to invite you to spend a few minutes seeking the Lord through prayer. This is an invitation to ask God about what’s important for this season and let Him guide you in mercy and grace.

What’s on your most important list? What good things can you take with you from last season as you move forward into the next? What do you need to leave behind? Finally, what is the one thing you place at the top of your list, above everything else?

Share with me in the comments! I love hearing from you.

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