Why do we need to set priorities? The Bible says “Without a vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). To apply this verse to our daily lives means to say that without a plan we just meander through the days, weeks, and years, dabbling at this and that, but never accomplishing a lot. When we have a plan, a vision, or a list of priorities, we are more likely to get stuck in and do it. I want to live my life with purpose, to set and achieve some goals, not to merely survive day by day. To do this I need to think through my priorities – what are the really important things, and what is the order of their importance?
So many opportunities are offering themselves to me as a homeschooler – swimming lessons, art and craft sessions, a mothers’ group, outings of every description. Then there are family and friends to visit, church and other groups to be involved in. How do I have the time to do everything? Quite simply, I don’t. I don’t have time for everything, therefore I must have a system for deciding which things to be involved in and which things to say “No” to. God knows how many hours are in a day!! He does not expect us to be exhausted at the end of every day. Trying to do too much will cause us to become burned out and sick. Because He knows how many hours are in a day, He will not ask us to do more than we can cope with. Sure, we must learn to do things in His strength. When we are weak, He is strong – I am not saying every day will be easy or that we should be able to breeze through each day with no effort. Homeschooling, training our children, and managing our homes is hard work.
What I am saying is that we can make ourselves too busy, if we try to do more than God is asking us to. I have found staying home most of the time, with a few selected activities, is far more productive in the long run. One of my priorities is to have a peace-filled home. That does not happen if I am constantly rushing the children out the door to go somewhere. So setting this priority in my mind helps me to make decisions about outings.
So what are some of these priorities?
Time with God
This has to be our first priority. I know when I am trying to do things in my own strength that I cannot be the loving, kind, patient mother that I wish to be! I once knew a lady with two small children who said to me “The Bible says God gently leads those with young, so I think He carries us through these years when we don’t have time to spend with Him”. She didn’t make time for her relationship with the Lord – but this didn’t make her less busy! She found it difficult to cope with the stress of being a mother – if only she had taken time to seek God’s strength and enabling, how much better her life (and that of her family) could have been.
Every morning I commit my day to the Lord, asking Him to fill me with His love and His strength. I ask Him what He would have me do today. Sometimes a thought will come into my mind from Him – something I hadn’t planned to do, and would not have thought of myself, but I know He wants me to do it when this happens. Imagine an army going out to battle without first being given their orders – or an employee beginning work without first finding out what his boss would like him to do. Just so, we need to go to the Lord and find out His plans for our day. We also need to be refreshed and filled so that we have something to give. We cannot give out of an empty tank! We need to soak in the Lord’s presence each morning, to be assured of who we are in Him, so that we can reflect his love to our family and those we meet. There are so many things I want to be – wise, patient, loving, gentle, kind, generous, – and all I really need is to be like Jesus. He is all I need to be. I am crucified with Christ, it is Him who lives in me. Each day I need to remind myself of this, and choose to live the day with this in mind.
Mary and Martha are a great example to me – I’m sure all busy mothers can identify with Martha, who was rushing around being busy. However, she was also worrying and fussing – which is what Jesus rebuked her for. He did not tell her off for working hard. He said “Martha, Martha, you are worried and concerned about so many things, but Mary has chosen the better part”. Mary had chosen to sit at Jesus’ feet. My desire is, even when I am busy, to have an attitude of peace, of listening to Jesus, of resting in Him. I choose to quit my fretting and anxiety over many things, and instead to trust Him and be calm and peaceful.
I know how hard it is to make time for a “quiet time” in a busy household. Living in a two room shed, it is impossible for me to wake up earlier than my family. When one is up, everyone wakes up. So we are straight into breakfast and on with the day. However, I have found my space – after breakfast when the children’s chores are underway I go out to the goat shed to milk the goats. This is when I come before the Lord. I cannot read my Bible – I do that later, in the evening – but I can quote memorized verses. I can also sing, and pray. Can I encourage you, too, whatever your circumstances, to make meeting with God your first priority. Be creative – I don’t think God expects an hour long Bible study every day – it is your relationship with Him that matters.
Some possibilities: Take a walk – even with little ones in tow you can commune with the Lord if you take your thoughts captive and use the moments when the children are not talking to you! Sing and pray in the shower. Have a family prayer time. Give your children some quiet activities and let them know you are not available (unless in emergency) for a few minutes. Center your thoughts on the Lord, sing and pray while you do housework.
Eve was created to be a helper suitable for her husband. (That is what “help meet” means). Likewise, we are told in Titus 2:4 to love our husbands, and in verse 5 to be obedient to our husbands. I want to make it a priority to try and do what my husband wants me to. If he asks me to do something specific, I do it at the earliest opportunity. I do this because I want to be helpful to him, I want to honor him, in doing so I also hon our and obey God. It is also a priority to keep my attitude towards my husband right.
I want to be a blessing to my husband, and so his needs are high on my priority list. Apart from promptly doing any specific things he asks me to, I also keep in mind the way he likes things. If your husband likes a tidy house you need to make it a priority to tidy up before he comes home from work. If he likes dinner at a certain time, make sure it is ready then, at least most of the time. Try to look ahead and see the things you know he would like you to do. Make time when he comes home to make him a hot drink and sit down to listen to him talk about his day (save all your news that you’re bursting to tell until after he has unwound). Remember, he has just been out working all day to support you and the children. He needs to feel appreciated and he also needs his home to be a welcome haven from the world. Make it a priority to have your husband look forward to getting home each evening.
It is my priority to have a good attitude! I need to choose to smile at my children – to let them know many times a day how much they are unconditionally loved. I want my home to be a welcoming place to everyone who visits it. My attitude will set the tone for the home. If I am snappy, the children will be too. I need to make sure I keep a cheerful attitude towards my work. It is my responsibility to manage my home – not that I have to do all the work myself – I can delegate! However, when I recognize the fact that the responsibility is mine, I can then concentrate on getting the job done, not waiting for someone else to do it.
Let’s break these down into three categories:
1 Emotional and Spiritual
My children’s greatest need, as I have already mentioned, is to know they are loved. To bask in my approval, to be encouraged by my smile, to be inspired to greatness, to learn there are consequences for their actions (both good and bad), are the things my children need from me each day.
Most importantly, they need a growing relationship with God – this should be a high priority for us – to see that they are getting spiritually fed each day. We need to reflect Christ in our own lives, for our children will learn from our example more than by our carefully thought out curriculum.
First-time obedience should be a priority in your home. When disobedience is allowed to creep in the parent becomes frustrated, and eventually angry at the child. Disobedience should be dealt with calmly and firmly when it first manifests itself. When it is nipped in the bud consistently the child learns to be obedient the first time he is asked. Consistency is essential to good parenting and is a wonderful exercise in self-discipline for the parent! Often it is easier to just raise your voice and repeat yourself, but in the long run this produces children who wait until your voice has reached that certain pitch, or you have repeated it enough times that he knows you’re going to blow up if you have to say it again, before he obeys. He becomes conditioned to your responses. Therefore the best response is to expect him to obey the first command. When children are trained in this way it is seldom necessary to need to discipline. Children are secure in the knowledge of their boundaries, and this is very reassuring to a child.
Of course, they need their physical needs met each day also – and so we need to do the practical things like preparing food, washing clothes, etc. They need to be trained to do all these practical things for themselves also. Our children should be well equipped for life when they leave our homes. Other physical needs include fresh air and exercise, and not to be cooped up inside all day. They need time to play, both alone, and together with their siblings.
They also need an education, and so we provide learning opportunities.
As each child has a different destiny their educational needs will differ from each other. We need to seek to know our children individually, and ask God for wisdom to decide what sort of knowledge they are going to need.
To begin with, all children need to know how to read, write, and do maths. These are a foundation for all other learning. Once a person can do these things they can educate themselves on all manner of different avenues. And so, until these skills are mastered, they will be the priority in my teaching. We may learn about all sorts of other things at the same time, but I will concentrate on these skills and purpose to get my children fluent in these first of all.
The character qualities we wish to instill into our children must also be high on the priorities list. There is no point raising an academically brilliant child if they do not care for others, have good manners, etc.
As mentioned above, we also need to purposely train them in practical skills. A lot of these skills will be learned as part of daily life, but some things will take an effort on your behalf to train your children to do. It is usually quicker and easier, for example, to bake by yourself, but in order for your children to learn this life skill you must take the time to show them how, and let them practice by doing it themselves.
Somewhere in your priority list needs to be set aside time for you! You need to set limits for what you are able to accomplish. Be prepared to say “No” to some requests. You are not superwoman – recognize your limitations and set your boundaries to prevent exhaustion. Try to get some times of refreshment for yourself every so often. Do you like to do a hobby? Visit with a friend? Have a date with your husband? Sit quietly by yourself in a cafe? Whatever it is that will bring a lift to your life when you’re feeling there USN’t much left to give – you need to take the time to do it. Just as a car needs fuel to keep it going, you cannot continue to give emotionally from an “empty tank”. Take some time to “re-fuel”.
I am not talking about being selfish, and robbing your family of your time because “it is my right to some time out”. I do not mean to put your children in daycare while you play tennis twice a week. We are called to be a “living sacrifice”, and the work we do is demanding and tiring. Work hard, but also remember that the Lord gives his loved ones rest.
To be able to work in our homes efficiently, our homes need to be organized. We need to spend time daily on maintaining the orderliness of our homes. Our children must be trained to help us in this task. Not only is it too much work for one Mother to do, it does our children a disservice if they are allowed to make the mess which we clean up. Housework does not rank terribly high on my ideal priority list, and yet it can take up so much time! I would so much rather spend all day teaching my children, or taking a walk, or, in fact almost anything else – and yet it is necessary to my sanity to keep my house at least reasonably tidy. We now spend about an hour after breakfast doing “chores” (if children tend to dawdle, I make them do the chores before breakfast – this hurries them up!) The children have some each, and I have some. All daily chores are divided between us. The children are responsible to keep their own room tidy, plus one area of the house. They swap “area” on a weekly basis. We also each have a list of “Weekly Chores” – things that only need doing once a week. These can be done at any time during the week, but if they’re not done by Saturday, we must do them then. Then again just before dinner in the evening, we have another set of tidying chores each. To begin this system I had to sit down and list every job that needed doing, then decide how often, and who should do it. Every so often I try to look at each job and ask myself if there is a more efficient way to get this job done. I sometimes read books on home management to help me to do things better/quicker, there are a lot of good ideas to be found in books or on the Internet.
This section may sound like a contradiction, but really I just want you to think carefully about your motivation for what you are involved in.
Firstly, if you have outside commitments, you must ask yourself if God wants you doing them at all. Sure, they can be good things – volunteer work, church work, organizing homeschool group events – but be aware that the good can prevent us from the best. In other words we can get so busy with “good” things, that the best that God has planned for us is simply crowded out. We don’t have time to read books to our children, or to look at a sunset, or listen to our husbands, or to help our neighbor. Sometimes God does call us to have outside commitments – but you must be sure it is a “God calling”. You must also be very careful to keep it in balance with your family commitments.
God wants us to be involved in our families. He also wants us to be salt and light in the world. Sometimes our whole family can be involved in ministry together. I feel this is a better option than the mother having a “ministry” that takes her from her home.
We are to be Christ’s hands and feet. We are to take care of the poor, the widow and the orphan. We are to be hospitable. We must be involved in the Lord’s work. But let us take our children along with us, they are our apprentices – then we can accomplish two things at once – taking the gospel into the world on one hand, and training our children to do likewise on the other. We must make room in our priority list for other people.
OK. To make your own list of priorities you need to ask yourself what is most important to you. What do you want to accomplish? Daily? Weekly? Yearly? In your lifetime? Then you need a plan for how to go about it. Let’s start with some questions. Please write your answers and spend some time thinking and praying about your responses.
- What is of lasting value?
- When I look back in 20 – 30 years time what would I like to have done well at?
- When I look back at the end of my life what do I not want my regrets to be?
- “I wish I had spent more time….”
- “I wish I had….”
- ” I wish I hadn’t….”
- What things would you like to change about your life? (Must be possible – don’t list any things you personally do not have the ability to change).
- What heritage do you want to pass on to your children?
- What do you want to be remembered for?
Reading back over this article, list in order the most important things, in your opinion. Feel free to add your own ideas to your list.
Make sub-headings under each item in your list. List in order the most important things under each heading. For example, “Educating children” may be fourth on your list. In this new list, write down in order what you want to teach your children.
Now you have quite a list – your own list of priorities. In future when you have decisions to make you can refer back to your list. Use it to keep you on track. When an opportunity arises, for example, to be involved in a sports team, you can look on your list and see where on your priority list this would fall. You can also look at what priorities come before this one, and consider whether the time involved in the sports team would crowd out some of your more important priorities, or whether this is something you feel would help you to reach your goals.
By referring often to this list you will be able to see whether you are, in fact, reaching your targets, or whether you are not accomplishing what you would like to. When this happens, you can re-consider your activities to see what needs to be given up, so that the things you consider more important will be attained.
A daily/weekly plan or schedule can be helpful to get done what you want to do. This way you can be sure that your most important priorities are covered every day. Always remember, however, that your schedule is a tool, and not your taskmaster. Be flexible enough to not fret when your day doesn’t go according to plan.
May God bless you as you seek His plans for your life.
Need more help with setting priorities or becoming organized? Visit my webpage “Priorities”, under “Homemaking” in the navigation bar.