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On the Side - February 2013

by Sharon Chatwell

For the past several months I have been struggling with priorities. To be honest, there have been so many things going on in my life that I have found myself just going from one pressing need to the next. Whatever seemed to be the most urgent task at hand was the one which got tended to first. (In fact for a while, what I really needed was a good triage nurse… just to keep everything straight.)

But, now that things have slowed down a little (not much, but a little…) I find myself trying to prioritize what’s left. Or, in other words… What’s on top of my “Things to Do” list now?

When I have felt this way in the past, I have made lists… actual lists… of things that needed doing. When Rick and I moved into our current home, 20+ years ago, we had to do this. We moved into our 80 year house with 3 little kids and just enough furniture to fill a couple of the big vacant rooms.

I found myself with so much (potentially) to do looming ahead of me that I found I couldn’t think straight. One day, shortly after we moved in, I got 3 pieces of paper and sat down in the kitchen to make three different lists. When Rick came home and found them on the cabinet, I could hear him laughing from all the way upstairs.

One list was titled “Things to Do – Right Away”… The next was “Things to Do – Later On”… And the last was simply called… “When Pigs Fly.”

I want you to know that I still have that piece of paper… and while Rick and I (by the grace of God) have long since accomplished and crossed off everything else… we still have quite a few things left to do on the “When Pigs Fly” list. But that doesn’t surprise you, does it? I mean, after all, pigs don’t fly yet.

And, of course, none of these things left to do would be considered small things… They are things like “Redo the Driveway” or “Put in Central Air”… Big ticket items that continue to wait for just the right moment. After all…There have been other things to do. Things like “Pay for College” or “Replace the Roof.” And, besides… Pigs don’t fly yet.

So making lists should come naturally to me. I should be able to sit down and do it now. So… Why can’t I?

I think it is that after 20 or 30 years of marriage and school and kids and weddings and kids moving out and kids moving in and then eventually moving back out again… I find that the important things to do… the things that God seems to want me to do… are just the things which come next. The reality is that no matter what lists I make… or how good my intentions are… when it comes down to it… all I can really hope to do is the next right thing… The thing that God puts right in front of me and says, “Here… Do this.”

I find that there is always a baby that needs feeding, or a dog that needs walking, or a plant (in my case – a cactus) that needs watering. And, of course, there are my other responsibilities that I have taken on… like my writing for here, or on the radio, or elsewhere. These things all take time. And, of course, my most favorite thing to do is to spend time with my husband (who has precious little free time himself)…and so for this I out carve time from my week and guard it jealously.

But there are other priorities as well… and these can seem a little more ethereal… One of them is taking care of myself. You know, doing things like getting my hair cut… or going to the doctor… or maybe even doing something more exotic like getting some exercise! But I have found that the most important thing I need to do is to take time to be in the Lord. For example: Taking time to pray and to read the Bible.

I’m currently on a one-year-plan to read through the Bible, and (in keeping with true Sharon style) I’m on the second year of my one-year plan! But I’m having fun. I’m going at my own pace (which is slow) and taking time to look up all of the footnotes I want and to see how all the different verses compare to each other. I have learned a lot and I know that God is blessing me through it.

I find that if I can just find just a few minutes to read my Bible, and to sit quietly and pray a couple of times a day, I am better able to organize my day and take on what comes. In fact, I find it easier to put behind me the cares and concerns of yesterday, to deal with the frustrations of today, and to set aside the worries about tomorrow. These things slow me down. And they rob me of important time that I have in the here and now… which, if you think about it, is all the time any of us really has!

And so, my priorities have to be that I spend a little time each day, preferably some of the first and last moments of the day, praying and praising God for all He has done for me, and studying His Word (the Bible) which helps to remind me of all He has done in the past and of all that He promises to do. Then it is easier for me to get through my days, to keep my other responsibilities prioritized correctly and, basically, just to get to everything else!

Well, to get to almost everything else … after all… Pigs don’t fly yet!

Sharon is a physician spouse and a stay-at-home mom, who has raised four kids and is now doing elder care… since one of their elderly relatives has come to stay with them. Sharon and Rick say that they were “empty-nesters” for about a day.