How do you do it all?

I heard it again yesterday and at least 3 times before within a week.  Curious women asking, with perhaps a trace of angst in their voices and defeat on their faces, "How in the world do you manage to do it all?"

So, in case you are wondering, I am going to answer that question for my blog friends.  Same as I answered them.


Period.  I do not do it all.

And I don't even try and I don't even feel a smidge of remorse over it.  Or desire for it.

I have been just as guilty as anyone else to look at someone else and slap the "Epic Fail" label on myself.  Depending on which friend I am focusing on, I come to the conclusion that I should exercise more, clean my house better (or just clean it period), decorate every room simultaneously - looking like House Beautiful yet on the budget of Poor Richard's Almanac - prepare gourmet meals 3x day from wheat and coconut oil that I grind and/or extract myself, write a blog that has ads on it (translation - makes $), publish a book, teach my kids violin and Japanese, give seminars on how to be the perfect wife & mother, have 21 children and adopt 6 more, and definitely SCRAPBOOK ALL THE LOVELY MEMORIES OF EACH CHILD FOR THEIR ENTIRE LIFE.  Yeah, definitely that one.  All the while maintaining an impeccable spirit of patience and kindness and love, and perfectly manicured nails.

If I look at all the folks that can and do those things, I mistakenly believe that they do all of them.  And I am here to set the record straight - they don't.  I don't (do any of them!).  And neither should you. 

Here's what I do:

1. I give grace.
Grace to myself by embracing the truth that I am not designed to "do it all".  Grace for my friends who can't "do it all" either.  And grace for my family by not stressing us all out while I try and pretend that I can.

2.  I prioritize.
While we can't do "it all", we can and should do the "it" we are designed to do!  I constantly assess how I'm doing on keeping my priorities in order.  And I ask for input, even when it's painful...
My husband's needs and desires for our family trump everything else.  This week, he held a conference for his department and vaguely hinted at needing something for the "goody bags".  I offered to make strawberry jam and this took priority over all other projects I had planned.  Note: he didn't insist on this, didn't even really ask for it.  Instead, this was an opportunity for me to bless him and to live out my priorities.
After hubby come kiddos.  Yep, my family comes before church or "ministry".  While I don't (always) jump at whatever the kids are asking me to do, the needs of their schedules and lives take precedence over my Bible studies, my blog, and my friends.  My family IS my ministry!
As the children have gotten older and more independent, I have more disposable time to invest in other places.  But they will always rank higher in the pecking order than anything outside my home.  Especially exercise.........

3.  I outsource and delegate.
BIG on this idea!  I don't do all the cleaning in our home. The kids are largely responsible for the day to day cleanliness of our home (which is why we suggest all our guests be up to date on immunizations...JK)  I do most of the cooking but lunch is most always "YOYO" - You're on your own.
Whatever I can afford to outsource, I do.  I know women who can repair cars, monogram gift items,  and maintain their own heating/cooling systems, but I can't.  Perhaps I should say I don't because I'd like to think I could learn if I had to.....but while we can afford to have someone else do these things, I consider it  my patriotic duty to contribute to the economy by paying to have it done.

4.  I plan ahead.
I am always on the lookout for things I can do ahead of time that will save me time later.  Often, it saves me money as well.  I deliberately choose projects, menus, etc that can be broken up into smaller increments and done a step at a time.  For instance, that strawberry jam I mentioned.  A week before I knew we would need to make jam, I had already purchased and processed scrumptious berries into 3 cup portions and stashed them in the freezer.  Ready for smoothies or my strawberry bread recipe.  Now I could use some of them for strawberry jam.  Same for apples that I grate and store in bags to be used in my apple cake recipe.  Makes end of year teacher gifts a snap.
Speaking of gifts, I have a "gift box" under my bed which houses things I purchase on sale and stash until time for a hostess gift or birthday present.  Helps avoid some of those mad dashes to the store at the last minute.  Saves $ too :)

For me, planning ahead means not putting off what can be accomplished early. That's pretty self-explanatory but just for the sake of example, I'll share that I think it's a good idea to get up early, make up your bed as soon as you get out of it, don't waste time doing meaningless things, and (loosely) plan your day the night before.

And it means being prepared.  Maybe not Y2K proportions, but being prepared saves my hide more times than I can count!  (and the converse is also true.....)

I have some other ideas about organization that help save time, money, and sanity in this series:
Tips for the UNorganized,
Planning ahead really helps me do the "it" I'm called to do!

5. I lower my  expectations.
Now, don't hear what I'm not saying.  I am all for excellence!  My husband just taught this principle to  our Young Marrieds Sunday School class this week.  Yes, I am all for excellence.  But perfectionism and excellence are two different things.
"Excellence" is for the glory of God and the blessing of others.
"Perfectionism" is for the glory of self and a manifestation of pride. 
When I say "lower expectations", I am talking about going back to point #1. Giving grace all around.  Not trying to appear that I have it all together and can do more than someone else.  Not being impatient with people that don't have strengths in the areas I value but instead seeing their strengths as being different than mine and also to be treasured & applauded.
Strive to do the best you can, even in the "little" things but not so that you look good in someone else's eyes.  Do the best you can at that moment, given the resources (sleep, money, energy, giftedness) available to you at that time.  And be content with the results.

6.  I consider timing.
"It all" today won't look like my "it all" next year.  I don't attempt to do all that I am equipped to do at the same time.
  For example, I don't teach a Bible study every semester.  Even though I dearly love to do that and am called to teach women, I don't try to do it nonstop.  I need time to study and prepare...and replenish and maintain my priorities.
I look ahead at the calendar and guard our commitments so that our family as a whole isn't overscheduled.  If my hubby and/or kids have a lot of obligations in a certain week, I don't add to the stress level by hosting a Tupperware party in our home at that time.  And I don't let the kids commit to too many things either...even if "they love it!!"

Psalm 1:3 says
He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers

Different seasons are to yield different fruit.  Know which one you're in.  Don't try to produce out of season.
And, in order to keep bearing that fruit and not wither, we need to be sure we are planted so that we continuously receive the Living Water.  Over and over and over.