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Do the Next Thing

34 Early in my marriage and parenting years, I listened to a lot of Elisabeth Elliot. She always shared some very down-to-earth biblical wisdom on her radio show. Oh, how I miss her show!

One of her best pieces of advice was to busy, stressed-out moms and homemakers: when the day seems to be falling apart and the baby is crying and the toddler is making a mess and it's way past time to start dinner and your to-do list hasn't even been started, what do you do? You do the next thing!

But what is the next thing? Is it the messy bathroom, frying the chicken, calling the bank, or the mountain of laundry? When you want to just sit down and cry (and I know that happens, because it's happened to me) because nothing is going smoothly, take a deep breath, cry out to God for mercy, and just do one thing.

After that thing is done, do just one more thing.

Keep doing this as you can, and don't look any further ahead right now.

Maybe dinner will have to be fast food so you can wash clothes and rock the baby. Maybe the baby just needs to be fed and then you can start the laundry. Can the phone call wait one more day? If not, what can wait?

Let's face it, when mom is stressed and frazzled, she's not going to be much of a blessing to her family. It's okay for some things to be skipped or put off til tomorrow if it means peace in the home.

A stress buster for me is a clean living room. Okay, and a Dr. Pepper. But the clean living room goes a long way toward preserving my sanity. So that's usually my first next thing.

There are some practical ways to determine what that next thing is, too. I keep a large whiteboard in my kitchen for jotting down the shopping list, the to-do list, reminders to family members, and other very important info. I also made a couple of my own prettier versions of a wipe-off board for the bathroom and my bedroom. {I simply bought a pretty frame, cut some pretty scrapbook paper to fit, and insterted the paper behind the glass. The glass front serves as a wipe-off surface. } This allows me to jot down to-do's and shopping reminders that come to me while I'm brushing my teeth or making my bed. ( Nine times out of ten, I'll forget what they were before I make it to the kitchen. )

If that doesn't work for you, keep note pads in every room. Write down whatever you think of, and tackle those things in the most important order.

When you have a list going, tackle the things that make sense first: obviously the family needs to eat. Determine how this will happen. A change of menu plans is okay! Scrambled eggs and toast for dinner is okay! The family needs clean laundry, but do we have enough clean for one more day, or at least until I can start the washer at bedtime? If I really have to call the bank today, can it wait until naptime, or can the kids watch a video while I take care of business?

You may not get to paint your toes today or finish your sewing, but the most important things will get done and you (and the family) will notice a difference.

One thing I remind myself all the time in these situations: When I am old and look back on my life, I will never wish I had watched a few more movies or kept my nails in perfect condition, but I feel pretty sure I will wish I had read just a few more books to my kids, had a few more conversations with them, or played with them a little more.

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