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On the Side - September 2017

What Next?
by Sharon Chatwell
Maybe you don’t have this problem, but I never seem to know what to do next. I have plans for things I’d like to do. I also have lists of things I need to do; in fact, in some cases I have “lists of lists.” But which one of these things is the one that you choose to do next? And how do you decide that?
It used to be easier. I used to have less time. Years ago, when I was a resident’s wife with lots of little kids at home, the thing I needed to do next was usually pretty obvious. Typically, it had something to do with the next meal that had to be prepared or the next diaper that had to be changed. There was no list, nor any need for a list. There was just, “What has to be done right now to preserve life, limb and basic sanitation?”
Ah, for the good old days…

Now I seem to have too much free time on my hands, although really, I’ve never been busier. (How does that work, anyway?) I guess I mean that I have all these big things I want to accomplish in a certain period of time (i.e. between now and the grave), and I’m not sure which one of them to take on first. And sometimes, when I get started on one thing, something else comes along that either distracts me or gets in the way of my self-made plans.
So, how do I decide whether the thing that has interrupted should be attended to or not? I guess it has to be decided on the overall merits of the thing which has been interrupted. For example: Let’s say that I need to respond to some emails, but my son wants to come over and visit, along with my little grandson. What do I do? Do I send my grandson away and answer the emails? (No.)
But when do the emails get done? Do I do them at night – the only time I regularly get to see my husband and spend time with him? (No.) Poor emails. They get pushed to another day, to “tomorrow” usually…whenever that is.
Finally, when I do get time to do things (that is, when my grandson isn’t visiting and my husband isn’t home), which things do I choose to do first? Errands and phone calls always seem to trump everything else on the list. And the emails continue to sink lower and lower, until they are almost off the paper.
I used to jokingly say that unless it talked, walked or barked it didn’t get taken care of at my house. (My poor plants are as dry as a bone. In one of my ceramic pots – the one with the Christmas Cactus in it – there is a sign that says, “Pray for Rain.”)
As Christians, we have things to do. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (NASB). That’s great! But I wish, sometimes, that God would be a little clearer about which way I’m supposed to be walking! I feel that I have a definite vision about some of the things I should be doing, and yet I don’t seem to be making headway on them. It can be frustrating!
Many Bible verses apply here. The one that comes to mind first is, “Wait on the Lord...” (Psalm 27:14, KJV). Sometimes we just need to be patient. Long-term goals and big projects don’t usually happen overnight. And, just because we can write down all the many things that need to happen on a list, it doesn’t mean that they can all be achieved right away. Sometimes we have to practice patience (something I am not necessarily good at) and wait on the Lord.
Proverbs 16:9 tells us, “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps” (NASB.) Or, to paraphrase, you think you’re going to do it this way, but God may have other plans or a completely different schedule. It’s important, while we are practicing patience and “waiting on the Lord,” that we don’t get too frustrated. When we get so focused on our own lists that we refuse to take on what obviously comes to us to do, we can miss out on some of God’s greatest blessings.
Just remember that everything will be alright. After all, who’s to say that God won’t help you achieve all those things on that list in an easier and faster way than you can imagine? I have found that when I try to do things on my list, without God’s help, it is like trying to push a rope. Nothing productive happens and things get all tangled up.
But if we wait on the Lord, trusting Him to lead us, everything works out in the end; usually in ways that we could never have imagined possible.
So, relax. Put down the list. Go water the flowers. God is BIG!

Sharon is a physician spouse, living in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska. She has lists and lists of lists and she hopes that most of the things on them will get done…eventually. She wishes you many happy days of following Jesus, wherever He leads you.

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