My dad is a truck driver, and growing up I spent lots of time riding along with him when he would go on his long haul trips all over the U.S. Then later once I got home from Bible college, I got my class 1A and team drove with him for half a year before quitting to plan my wedding. I learned a lot from my dad on those long drives. He is a good teacher and always makes a life lesson out of every day examples. One of his funny sayings that stuck with me was, “Life’s too short not to pee”.
Driving truck we were always in a hurry, always had somewhere to load or unload, and stopping for little things just wasn’t lucrative. The faster we got there, the faster we could get somewhere else, and the more money we could make. But even though dad was pretty hardcore about making good time, he still knew how to keep his priorities straight, and us kids never felt like he was too busy for us or didn’t care.
We would stop at cool places when we could, and see the sights and experience the places we were. Yes, there were a lot of long days and driving without breaks, but we always stopped to pee. This was mostly on account of me..and I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve peed on the side of the road (at night) in almost all the States, from the corn fields of Illinois and the wide open prairie of Kansas to the swampy marshes of Louisiana.
Dad just always made time for the things that mattered in life, in order of importance. He taught us kids that priorities should always be:
- Your spouse
- Your children
- Work/Career/Ministry etc.
If you followed this order, everything flowed smoothly and not only would you have a successful day, but a successful life. Well, sometimes we have to learn ourselves the hard way, even if we’ve had great examples before us.
When I became a mom, I often found myself rushing around overwhelmed, always busy and always with a long to-do list. I often felt discouraged at the end of the day that I only got half the list done, and still hadn’t taken any time for my spiritual life or my husband.
Things did not flow smoothly because my priority order was wrong. I was putting my babies and my mothering duties first, because, well, they were the loudest! I kept thinking I would have time at the end of the day for God and my husband. We all know how that goes..didn’t happen.
Then one day as I was running after two adorable toddlers, I realized that I really had to go to the bathroom but had been holding it because I was so busy changing diapers and wiping runny noses..I felt like I just had no spare time to stop (but I can only hold it for so long after having twins!).
It was then my dad’s words came back to me, and I stopped what I was doing and just went pee. So what that my children were whining and needing something…mama had to go.
That was the beginning of me realizing that I needed to stop running around and prioritize. I was so busy taking of my family that I wasn’t taking very good care of myself or my marriage. I was getting frazzled and agitated..and discouraged that maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this mom thing. How on earth did people have more than 2 kids anyway? It seemed beyond me.
While doing some reading online about creating helpful routines and systems for your home, I came across this great illustration that made it all come together for me:
Picture a jar. The jar is your day. Beside it are some big rocks, little rocks, water and sand, which represent your priorities. You need to fit it all in your jar. The illustration is that if you fill your jar with water and sand first, then there will be no room at all for the smaller or bigger rocks. But if you put the biggest rocks in first, then the smaller rocks will fit in around them, and the sand and water will fill all the cracks until the jar is full.
Example from me: when I had time to myself while the girls napped, I would just watch my favourite tv show, or take a nap, or go on FB (because I deserved a rest, right?). Then the rest of the day I would be busy taking care of my family, and there would be no more time at the end of the day. No more time for the important things I needed to do to recharge and grow personally and spiritually.
So I made a list of my priorities-the things that I needed to do in a day to make it a successful day for me. Read my Bible, journal, exercise, read a book, work on a creative project, spend quality time with my husband, give focused attention to the girls, etc, in order of most important to least important.
That way if I only got the first thing on my list done, I would feel better knowing that the most important thing for me was taken care of. Then the smaller rocks and other filler was fine. But if I used my precious free time for the sand and water items on my to-do list (ahem FB), then I would feel discouraged at the end of the day.
Time is precious-and life is short
So the key is to:
- write down what’s important for you in your day in number of importance (obviously not every day is the same and some days you will have certain projects or things to get done that you don’t other days, but just write down the big rocks). What do you need to do to take care of yourself, physically, mentally and emotionally? What do you need to do to take care of your family and your relationships?
- make a plan for when you will set aside a specific time for those big rocks.
So for example, if reading your Bible is number one, do that first when you have some free time. Or if you and your husband need to spend some time together, do that first before you do the dishes once the kids go to bed. If you want to pack your husband’s lunch, do it in the evening so that in the morning it’s ready to go in case you have a bad night and are rushed in the mornings (like I always am). If you have bills that need to be paid, do that before you go on FB.
So much of my time used to be spent wasted on the sand and water, but now that I have my big rocks established, I have such a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. It’s the recipe not just for a successful day, but a successful life, and I can rest assured knowing that my priorities are where they should be.
I hope I’ve inspired you a bit to make time for what matters in your day, because life is short, so no regrets!
What are some of the sand and water things in your life that keep you from focusing on the big rocks?
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