How do you decide how to spend your time each day? Maybe you have a boss breathing down your neck for forty or more hours each week and can barely fit all your other responsibilities in the scraps of time left over. Maybe caring for your kids is forcing you from one bone-weary day to the next.
As a mom who works at home, it has felt daunting to be aware of so many good things I could spend my time on, in addition to planning around the unpredictability of caring for a preschooler and a toddler.
When I was in school, I gave most of my time to my teachers and the homework they assigned. When I was teaching, I gave hours and hours each week to managing my classes and preparing lessons.
I once heard a speaker compare the time we have each day to a pie. At the beginning of each 24 hour day, it’s a fresh-from-the-oven pie, and by the end, it’s an empty pie plate, instantly refilling for the next day.
My tendency has been to want to figure out how to slice the pie and slice it the same every day. But then I start living like my pie is my own, rather than a grace God has entrusted to me. I begin to resent the times when my kids or husband want a bigger slice, or when the pie is empty before I had the chance to do everything I wanted to do. When I call the pie mine, I’m also tempted to set my pie up next to others’ pies to see how they’ve sliced theirs and feel my pie is wrong because it looks different.
So how do I receive the pie of a day, or the pies for a week, or the pies for a year with an open hand? How do I let God do the slicing?
I ask Him to show me His values.
The pie of my time can be an offering back to God when I let Him shape my values. I spend time on what I value, but I can only value what God values when I make space for Him. Though the slice of time to pray and read the Bible might not be the same each day, (and may be slivers or crumbs collected throughout the day), as we read His word, He uses it to direct all the other slices and even the attitude we have as our slices are eaten up.
He gives us a vision for what He is doing in the world–bringing all things together in Christ–and reminds us of the privilege of resting in the gospel and running with the good news to all who will listen, (even if they are trying to do handstands or smash a tower of blocks at the same time).
I don’t make every decision about how thin or thick a slice is cut.
When I plan my day so rigidly that everything extra is an inconvenience, I am easily frustrated and might miss what the Holy Spirit is wanting me to join Him in.
When my husband is home and our pies are overlapping, it’s not loving or respectful to cut his pieces for him. Instead, it’s another chance for me to serve him and receive the blessings he gives to our family as we work together.
When I’m not always thinking about the next task, I can also have space to enjoy the things I am spending my time on, rather than flipping to the end of the picture book to see how much longer it will take to read.
I ask God to help me value each role He has given me to steward.
Meal planning often makes me tired. Picking up toys feels pointless when they get dumped out again two seconds later. But when God helps me see the bigger picture of why He’s given me the roles He has, I can flip through one more grocery ad and throw the Duplo blocks back in his room again.
When I clean my house, it’s easier to welcome other people into it, even if it can only be described as “relatively clean and picked up.” God brought an ordered universe from the chaos of the waters of darkness, and I can reflect His desire for restoration as I snap the lid on the toy box again. (And for some reason, the toys become fun again once they’ve been put back into baskets.)
Planning and preparing meals is a way to meet the needs of my family and any others who come during mealtimes. Any time invested in finance, health, car, and home details is a way to love my family and take care of some chaos my husband won’t have to deal with.
I anticipate what God might let me join Him in.
Even when I feel God has given me an idea for using the gifts He’s entrusted to me, it’s tempting to want to control it, to try to make it happen in my way and my timing. But when I allow God to choose slices for certain things, He can use my entire pie along with millions of other pies to fulfill His perfect plan.
It might mean letting go of some of my own expectations in my child and home-care roles. Or laying down my preferences for how to load the dishwasher or get the oil changed in the van so that I don’t have to do it myself. And it might mean using my slices to relieve tasks I might prefer my husband to do so that he can serve in something God is inviting him to.
An Undercooked Mess
Maybe it seems like others have abundant energy or health to devote to each slice. Maybe a grief or underlying tension or stress is making you struggle through caring for the basic needs that fill each pie. Maybe you feel like by the time all the slices are devoured, there aren’t even any crumbs for you, and you wouldn’t have energy to even enjoy them if you did. It’s okay to be frustrated with a hard season or string of seasons as you remember the truth:
Jesus has lived a perfect life of obedience to the Father’s will for us, so that we can enjoy Him for an eternity of pain-free pies. Whether we feel like our pie is an undercooked, blueberry mess, or whether the cross-hatched top came out perfectly, God sees us the same. He sees Jesus’ perfection. And He loves us, sticky hands and all.