I spend a good amount of time and thought into planning my garden. I try and use the recommended spacing and carefully plot out what is going to grow and how many plants will fit into the space. But then when planting time arrives, I start to doubt the space. The seedlings look so tiny, surely I can squeeze in just “one more” tomato plant or squeeze in another dahlia tuber. And then as things start to grow it becomes obvious that I’ve, once again, over planted my garden.
I confess, just like my garden, I just want to do it all and fit “one more thing in”. It’s a motto I’ve lived by for the majority of my life, but one that hasn’t served me well. Just like in gardening, when we have too much, nothing has room to grow and flourish. Good things need time and space to flourish.
If we want good things to grow in our lives (and garden) a hardy pruning is necessary. It begins with evaluating what you have, pulling things, and cutting back what is already there; snipping the “sucker” plants from the tomatoes or cutting back the dead leaves on the cosmos. It’s the pruning that creates health for a plant, removes disease, and gives plants the energy to thrive. Once you prune off those extra leaves, the plant has renewed energy to focus on blooming and thriving.
And just like there are seasons where I need to prune my tomatoes, my schedule and activities need pruning too. I’m continuing to learn that if I try to do it all and fit it all in I’ll end up as nutrient deprived as my sad little tomato plants.
Last Winter I was tired, weary, and worn out. I had been trying to do it all for far to long and my soul couldn’t keep up. So I got out my planner and pruned. I made a list of all the activities I committed to (monthly, weekly, daily, etc.) and then got ruthless.
And then COVID hit and the world turned upside. I had a natural opportunity to reset my schedule, evaluate my priorities, and take a breather. Everyone was staying home, and this people pleaser found a bit of relief in not having to turn down obligations or choose between amazing opportunities.
As the months of Safer@Home has continued, we are learning a new way of life. A life that looks like different, but continues to be increasingly busy. Zoom calls, virtual showers, social-distance fundraisers, online conferences, in person opportunities to serve, and small gatherings are all starting to overwhelm my schedule, and if I’m honest my soul too.
A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.”
It’s uncomfortable to make space in our schedules, to say no to good opportunities, and to keep margin on our schedule. Our world glorifies busy, even in this current climate.
And friend, I bet with back to school season you are feeling the need to do some pruning in your heart, schedule, and soul too. Below are a few tips that have helped me get all the things out of my head, reset my priorities and focus on what matters most.
Get it out of your head!
One of the most powerful exercises is to set a timer for 10 minutes and just write. Write your to-dos, obligations, commitments, lingering decisions you have to make,… We have so many thoughts swirling around in our heads, and when we don’t make time to process them out they take up much needed space and capacity.
List your non-negotiables.
Don’t you feel better already? Next up, make a list of the non-negotiables in your life. Do you have a 9-5 job? Write that down. Do you have kiddos at home or virtual school to navigate?
Think through your life on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis and make a list of the things that are non-negotiables.
This is NOT the place to write down all the other things. Believe it or not, you do NOT have to attend 3 bible studies, volunteer weekly, or be apart of 2 book clubs to have a amazing and fulfilled life (preaching to the choir here!)
Make a list of what fires you up and sparks joy in your days.
This is the best part! Make a list of what sparks joy in your heart. Do you love to bake? Are you a gifted singer? Does visiting with neighbors put a spark in your day? Maybe you love running or gardening or hiking. Write those things down and let’s make a pact to ensure we carve out TIME for the things that fire us up. A flourishing life doesn’t happen on accident. A flourishing life is built one small action at a time. Friend, we have to FIGHT for what fires us up and make room for what truly matters in our lifes.
Own your season and story.
Take a few minutes and get really honest with yourself. How are you doing emotionally, physically, and spiritually? Each of our seasons and stories have different weights on our schedule. A new mom is going to have different challenges (and joys) in her days compared to an empty-nester. Someone who is more extroverted may enjoy being apart of several clubs or volunteer obligations, while our introverted friends need extra space in their days and weeks. Your season is beautiful just as it is. Those dreams and desires you feel called to? God will provide time and space in His perfect timing.
Say no and let go.
Okay friend, so now we put it all together. Compare the list of current obligations with your list of non-negotiables and What Fires You Up. Take a hard look at what opportunities you have in this Season. If they are not something you have the capacity to do well, say no and let it go. Remember, when you say no to something you are actually opening the door for another person to say yes.
When we choose to prune and make room in our schedule and days, it opens up our eyes and hearts to not just notice but savor the life God has given us. And that my friends is worth everything.
Want to dive deeper?
The Next Right Thing Podcast by Emily P. Freeman
The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst