Do the Next Thing (2)

Adah and leaves

I first posted the following blog in July of 2011. In talking to a lovely young mother recently – it came up again  – that feeling of being overwhelmed. I wanted to re-post this because we ALL need to be reminded of this again….and again!

We just had the privilege of taking care of our three granddaughters for a week. I am left with two overwhelming feelings – first – exhaustion – and then a new and deep respect for our daughter and son-in-law as parents. I had forgotten just how constant the care of young children is. There is never any down time while 6, 4, and 2 year olds are awake. As you mothers of young children know – you must be ever mindful of where your children are and what they are doing.

I enjoyed every minute of our granddaughters’ visit, yet I must admit I was worn out. I had planned to do several small projects while they napped or after they went to bed. One project was crocheting a border around a new, small blanket. for the 2-year-old to carry (so it wouldn’t drag in the dirt) RIGHT! That did not happen.

I was reminded of some helpful advice I received when our children were small. Elizabeth Elliot, author and Bible teacher, encouraged young mothers to deal with overwhelming stress by encouraging one to just “do the next thing”. I found this piece of wisdom so practical because I remember many times being overwhelmed by my responsibility as a mother of young children.

Instead of focusing on all I had to do and knowing there were not enough hours in the day to get it all done, I would “do the next thing ” and focus instead on the task at hand.

It sounds so simple – but it is excellent advice and it works. When I felt overwhelmed I would

  • change the next diaper,
  • put the next load of diapers in the washing machine (yes, I am old enough to have had three in CLOTH diapers at the same time),
  • make the next peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I found that it was not so much the difficulty of any one task that was overwhelming, but the sheer number of things that MUST be done. I found that instead of being paralyzed into doing nothing, I was able to gradually accomplish the most important tasks. In the workplace people prioritize, but with small children the “priority” task is not always the most important task. Sometimes reading a story FIRST will offer a child the attention they need and then afterward allow you to start supper without a screaming appendage attached to your leg.

It is part of life experience to be overwhelmed at times. In Psalms, David addresses God in desperation –

Psalm 61:1 – 2 “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”

When David was overwhelmed, he cried out to God.

I have done that often and will again in this journey as a mother. It is a blessing to know I am not alone with these feelings and that my heavenly Father hears my cry and answers. I had begun writing this post on July 4th, but the “next thing” for me that day was our 6 grandchildren, my parents, brother, sister-in-law and niece, two daughters, two sons-in-law, a son and husband. So, a week went by without a post, not a big deal.

Doing the next thing did NOT mean I finished everything, it did mean I finished some things and accomplished what was most important that day as a grandmother, mother, daughter, sister, and wife.

Then, I did the next thing.

Finishing the Race

Gandalf 3


“I met with my pastor today and I told him I want you and Elaine to sing at my memorial service.”

My eyes filled with tears as I realized Sally knew her time here was coming to an end.

“I am deeply honored that you would ask me, ” I choked out.

This was the woman who had visited me 24 years ago right before my mastectomy to encourage me that cancer was not a death sentence. Sally had experienced a mastectomy and chemotherapy just the year before and became a volunteer with Reach for Recovery.

Sally was also an operating room nurse and the next week as I was rolled into surgery, Sally was one of the nurses on duty. She asked if she could pray with me and I replied, ” please do”. Sally prayed that I would be calm and sense God’s love as I went through surgery. The last thing I remember is thinking that when the surgeon made the incision love would pour out because I was so filled with God’s love through the prayers of Sally and many precious friends and family.

That was 24 years ago and after two more battles with cancer, Sally went on to be with the Lord.

“I don’t want anyone wearing black and being mournful,” Sally told Elaine. “I want the service to be a time of worship and blessing because I will be with Jesus.”

It was that indeed!

Sally’s memorial was a celebration of a life that radiated the love of Jesus everywhere she went. Sally had touched so many lives in so many varied ways through her ministry as a nurse, her singing and playing the guitar at nursing homes, her participation in the Community Orchestra playing the flute, playing tennis and bridge, and many hours of service through the churches she attended over the years. Sally was a talented woman and was so generous in using those talents for the Lord.

I am blessed to have been in a Home Group with Sally for the past several years. Her late husband, Arden, and she were committed members of our Home Group and they loved to worship and pray together before he died.

Sally continued to participate and she loved to worship and pray for her children and grandchildren. We prayed for healing for Sally and she expressed her faith in God as her healer – always confirming her trust in God’s will.

I will never forget watching Sally as her physical condition worsened, she remained strong in faith and Spirit. She confessed that God was faithful and that she was ready to go to meet Him when it was her appointed time. As a nurse, Sally knew the medical implications of what she was facing, yet she also know God was in control.

Last weekend I was watching our grandsons play outside and noticed how the youngest one tries to keep up with his bigger brothers. If there is an obstacle in the way – he climbs it.  He doesn’t want anything to stop him from being right there with his big brothers.

Isn’t that the way we should be with God? We must not let anything – cancer, separation, heartache, even a loved one’s death stand in the way of following Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith. Sally was like that  – cancer did not separate her from God’s love. Paul says something about this to Timothy when Paul realizes he is near death.

2 Timothy 4:6-8  (NLT)

6 As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Sally fought the good fight.

Sally finished her race.





Driving me CRAZY!!

Never this sweet girl!

Never this sweet girl!

There are certain looks, or tones of voice, certain words or phrases that can drive us crazy. (whatever!)

I remember thinking if one more child walks in the door and the FIRST thing they say is “What’s for supper?” that I just might roast that child!!!

It’s those little irritants that can make a day so trying. Here are a few that come quickly to mind:

  •  I have just mopped the kitchen floor and they come in from soccer practice in their cleats.
  •  I have just finished getting everyone dressed, ready to go out the door and a HUGE stinky diaper is detected
  •  I have all the kids in their car seats and one has to go to the bathroom – RIGHT NOW
  •  We sorted the toys while the youngest is taking a nap. After that child wakes up – she dumps all the toys out.
  •  We are all dressed up for a family picture and the baby spits up on the ONLY blouse I can button right now.
  •  I have 4 suckers of different colors and they ALL want the green one.

You get the picture – these are all little things – but they can be so irritating.

I read recently about the process that a clam goes through in making a pearl.  A grain of sand  – or other irritant – gets in the shell. The clam forms a coating, layer after layer of smooth surface to cover that irritant. That becomes the pearl! It no longer irritates because it is smooth and round.

What a lovely picture.

Those very things our children do that drive us crazy can become the substance of something very beautiful. It is not the behavior that becomes beautiful, but my response to it. If I can be patient, loving, and full of grace in those trying situations – something of beauty is formed.

Jesus is teaching about the Kingdom Of Heaven in Matthew 13. He wants his disciples, and us, to understand that the Kingdom of Heaven is of great value because it is where the King – God – rules or has authority. Jesus says –

Matthew 13:45-46   AMP

45 Again the kingdom of heaven is like a man who is a dealer in search of fine and precious pearls,

46 Who, on finding a single pearl of great price, went and sold all he had and bought it.

Jesus wants us to value God’s authority in our lives more than anything else. He wants us to value His rule as we would a very expensive pearl. The Lord desires to use those things in our lives that we see as irritants to “polish” off our rough edges and make us “shiny” enough to reflect His glory.

I pray that we can see the things that rub us the wrong way as people or circumstances that God is using in our lives.

It’s ok to recognize that certain behaviors are driving us crazy – but let’s allow God to use those very things to make us more like Jesus.