Ten years ago I felt like a candidate for Queen of the Unfinished Projects. A wife and homeschooling mother of five, I also held leadership positions in four state and local organizations and helped run three home businesses. There was never enough To-Day for the To-Do's.

GOD'S CLAIM ON OUR TIME

Guilt is an ever-present partner in parenting. I often felt guilty at the end of the day because there was so much work yet to be done. As I fell into bed, I longed to be able to say with Jesus, "It is finished--I have done what You called me to do this day."

Ephesians 5:15-16 speaks of "redeeming the time." Kairos, the Greek word used here for time, really means opportunity or in due season. We are to be less concerned about shoe-horning as many jobs into one day as possible and more concerned about doing the right task at the right time. This is the difference between mere efficiency and true effectiveness, between self-reliant multi-tasking and God-reliant prioritizing.

A HUMAN BEING, NOT A HUMAN DOING

God loves and accepts you for who you are, not for what you do. He is head-over-heels in love with you, just because He's your Creator-Father. He doesn't love you less when you have unchecked tasks on your To-Do list at night.

This is hard for Americans to accept. We are a Can-Do people who fill our days with Must-Do lists. Our families regularly supplement those lists with their own additions until we're struggling under an overwhelming load. Remember: if we keep burning the candle at both ends, pretty soon we'll run out of wax! So how do we decide which candles to burn and which ones belong on someone else's cake?

An old story tells of a professor who fills a jar with big rocks asking, "Is it full?" "Yes," the students reply. Then he shows that he can still add smaller rocks, sand, and water to the jar before it is truly filled.

What would have happened if the teacher had poured in the small rocks or the sand first? Could he have fit in any big rocks? No! The big rocks must be in place first. Then the small rocks can be added. Does this mean we should keep stuffing more activities and tasks into our already overstuffed lives so our jars are filled to the brim? Of course not!

The big rocks are the high-priority tasks you must do. They also define which smaller rocks belong in your jar to support the big rocks. If providing for the physical, spiritual, academic, and social needs of your children is a big rock in the jar of your life, it will define how you spend most of your time. Getting meals on the table, doing laundry, and grading papers are all small daily rocks that support the big rock of meeting the needs of your family.

Recognize that some of these rocks will be in your jar for a long time--that diaper-changing/potty-training rock seems to last forever! But recognize that it belongs in your jar for now. Realize that as you are meeting the physical needs of your family for health, cleanliness, and food, you are fulfilling one of God's callings for you in this season of your life.

TAKE INVENTORY

Your calendar reveals what you really believe is important. For the next few days, list on paper how you spend your time, noting every task, interruption, and phone call--and every time you check your email! What are you actually doing with your time? Does it center on the big rocks, the priorities? Or is there a lot of gravel in your schedule--time-wasters or activities that you could delegate to someone else? Classify each activity according to its significance in this season of your life.

Now list those priorities, those big rocks. Use your list to evaluate other opportunities that most surely will come your way. Are these options compatible with your big rocks? Then, each day, sit quietly before the Lord and ask, "What small rocks do I need in my jar today? What tasks can I do today which will move us along in the direction You have shown us?"