Do the Next Thing (2)

Adah and leaves

I firstĀ posted the following blog in July of 2011. In talking to a lovely young mother recently – it came up againĀ  – 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.