I love planning ahead and setting goals. Whether it’s for school, vacations, or our finances, making long range plans helps me feel on top of things. Without a plan, I have trouble knowing where I’m going.
That’s all great, but there are times when I look at the long range plans and get completely freaked out and overwhelmed. I look at my 5th grader and know that high school is around the corner and I’m filled with stress. My third grader has issues focusing and staying on task. How will she ever survive college? She can’t pay attention enough to stay out of people’s way at the grocery store. How can I ever trust her to drive a car? How am I going to get there from here?
I still make plans and set goals, but I’ve found that in addition to that, I need to look at today. Right now. In this school day, is some form of learning taking place? It may be different from what I had planned or it may be that we need to back way up and review previous skills. But is there forward progress happening? I start from where we’re at that day and try to move forward.
I’m a very task oriented person and it’s a challenge for me to put the to-do list aside in favor of giving my kids what they need. If we don’t get the workbook pages done, it’s OK, as long as education happens. It’s very freeing and keeps me from getting too overwhelmed.
I’ve discovered that I can apply that idea to other things when I feel like I can’t do it all. Take my disaster of a house, for example. I can look at the whole thing – the dust on the fan blades, the kid clutter everywhere, and my nasty kitchen floor – and simply want to scream. It’s helpful to take one step in the right direction. I ask the kids to pick up their mess on the living room floor. Wipe down one counter top. Mop the floor. I love Elizabeth Eliot’s quote: “Do the next thing”.
I’ve found that the same concept can also be applied to my own spiritual life. Some days I pull off some decent levels of patience, love, and creativity. Other days, (today?) I have trouble making it through ten minutes without snapping at my children. Rather than beating myself up and getting frustrated (which only makes me more grouchy and snappy), I need to start where I am, pray, and move forward. Seek each day to be more like Jesus. One step forward. Don’t worry about where you should be or be upset that you’re not as godly as the next person. Just accept where you are and move closer to Jesus.
In what area of life do you just need to “do the next thing”?