Friday, August 19, 2011

Live Simply -- Simply Live

by DeAnna Julie Dodson

Life seems to be moving faster and faster. Despite all of our modern conveniences, our to-do lists seem to spiral out of control. We're supposed to take care of our families, hold down a job or two, keep a clean house, do laundry, prepare nutritious meals, exercise regularly, keep the yard looking nice, attend church and church functions, nurture friend and family relationships, maintain the car, care for our pets, and spend quality time worshiping God. On top of that, we're encouraged to continue our educations, keep up with world and local events, enroll our children in several different extracurricular activities and ferry them back and forth, volunteer at charitable organizations, grow our own food, clip coupons, pursue a hobby or two, read widely, keep up with cultural events, be knowledgeable about the latest books, movies and television programs, follow politics and sports and be involved in neighborhood gatherings. But wait! There's more!


Who really has time to do everything?

My maternal grandmother, with very few conveniences, managed to raise her four children, cook three elaborate meals a day (making almost everything from scratch), sew the family clothes, do the cleaning and laundry and raise an amazing garden – her front and back and side yards were all full of glorious flowers, some of which she cross bred herself.

My paternal grandmother had ten kids, also made all the meals from scratch, including baking bread and cornbread every day. In addition to all the housework, she made quilts and somehow found time to do lovely embroidery and crochet. She raised her own kids and cared for many of her grandchildren when their mothers were working. She always had a full house and a mob of people to feed.

How did they do it? I confess I don't have a clue. I can hardly raise four cats and manage to stick a frozen dinner in the microwave when I'm hungry.

I just finished the rough draft of my current manuscript and am letting it sit for a few days so I can have somewhat-fresh eyes when I edit it. That gives me a minute or two to catch up on the things I've been putting off. That means I can do the blog posts and interviews and book reviews and endorsements I haven't gotten to yet. It means I can get back to the quilt I've had almost done for the past month and haven't had time to finish . . . IF my day job stays quiet for a while.

I could look around at all the other things calling for my attention and agree to take them on, too. After all, what's one more thing?

Or I could stand back and think about what I should be doing rather than what I could be doing. Things like teaching Sunday School or helping out with the youth group or teaching a literacy class or any of the other volunteer opportunities are wonderful in and of themselves. We should all try to help out. But is the particular opportunity you could be doing what you're actually called to be doing? And are you called to it right now?

As a writer, I'm always encouraged to have an online presence. That means I should have a well-maintained website and be visible on Facebook and Twitter and MySpace and on a personal blog and on a group blog. I should have fresh content on a regular basis. I shouldn't be shy about promoting myself, but I should be careful about not talking about myself too much. I should let people know what I'm doing, what I had for lunch, what movie I saw, why my Aunt Lulu moved to St. Louis, on and on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

Don't get me wrong, all of these outlets can be great for promoting a writer and his work, and yes, publishers definitely like to see that you have a "tribe" of people who are your regular followers. But if you have, let's say, 5000 Twitter followers and you follow 5000 people yourself, are any of you actually reading what those between-five-and-ten-thousand people are saying? Really?


And, if you are, and if you keep your Facebook page updated and read and respond to everyone who comments, and if you do the same with your personal and group blogs, when do you write? When do you have time to actually do the thing you're trying to promote? And if you have to keep a day job besides being a writer, when do you sleep?

I'm not saying social media is bad any more than I'm saying the family and community activities I mentioned before are bad. It's a question of making choices. Which will you do? Which are most important to you? Which are you called to? When are you supposed to do them?

We can all wear ourselves out 24-7 trying to do it all because it's all good. Or we can step back, breathe deeply and listen for God's voice telling us what He has for us. He designed each of us for a particular purpose at a particular time, but we can never fulfill that purpose if we try to do everything all the time.

Contrary to what you've heard, you don't have to do everything. You don't. You have my permission to say no. If anyone complains, feel free to blame me.

It's okay if you don't know who won American Idol. It's all right if your child is just in band and not soccer and drama and Girl Scouts and the spelling bee. You don't have to make the Thanksgiving dinner for the extended family every single year. Sometimes someone else can do it. You don't have to agree to read every book for endorsement you're asked to, even if that means you miss some that look really, really good. It's okay if you don't always take nursery on Sunday morning. Maybe someone else needs that ministry opportunity. Find what you are called to do and do that. The rest will take care of itself.

Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."

How can we know if we're never still?

Are you overwhelmed with everything that must be done? Are there things you could say no to? In your willingness to do everything for everyone, are you keeping someone else from learning and growing into the place God has called them to? Are you missing your perfect calling in trying to do everything you could do instead of only what you should do?

DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, and Letters in the Attic, a contemporary mystery. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with four spoiled cats.


  1. DeAnna, I love it when the Lord dovetails things like this. I didn't read your post before posting mine from yesterday. But I have a feeling the Lord is trying to do a work here. He's determined to get a message through. We can't focus on all the good things we could possibly do. We can focus on the best things He's given us to do. Sometimes I forget that.

    What's that old joke, "jack of all trades, master of none?" That's where I am. I definitely need to scale back. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Wow, what I great post to follow yesterday's! I like to say, "You can do everything, just not all at once." There are seasons in life when we need to focus in certain areas. I had to give up several church ministry roles and homeschooling in order to give my writing the attention it needed.

    I think the important thing is being tuned into God and knowing what he's asking you to do in this specific season of life. Then you can let go of the rest without guilt or remorse.

  3. Hey DeAnna, in defense of the hectic world we live in today, I have to say that yes, we are frazzled and overwhelmed, but unlike our foremothers, we get to choose what we want to be overwhelmed with.

    So the key words are moderation and choice.

    Dina's teaching predicament is a great example of praying for guidance so that you make the right choice.

    Choosing a few things you really want to do when you aren't working will enable you to take time to do them well.

    And having your kids choose 1 or 2 things they really want to do will not only relieve some of their stress, it will teach them to choose what really matters to them and give it their best shot (to go for quality not quantity). Hopefully, it will also teach them that parents aren't at their beck and call, and the family unit will run more smoothly if they accept the fact that parents have lives, too.

    In case you haven't guessed, I'm not a proponent of sacrificing your own life to give your kids everything they want. I like living in a balanced home and believe it's a much healthier environment for everyone involved.

    And DeAnna, that goes for cats too, independent animals that they are.

    Okay, sermon's over... back to my wip.

    Anita mae.

  4. Terrific post, DeAnna. Can you come to my house and remind me of this stuff next week when school starts?

    I say no pretty well. I have few problems saying no. But then I start to feel guilty. The Parent Teacher Club needs more help than I've been giving. Ministries at church would like me to be more involved. You know how it goes.

    I've always been good about not over-scheduling my kids. They play one sport at a time, or take some sort of lesson, but frankly, I can't afford for them to be in too many activities. And I firmly believe that kids should have down time to play, imagine, and create.

    So my issue is guilt and not necessarily standing my ground. There, I've confessed it!

    This was a good partner post to Lisa's from yesterday. Thanks for the blessings, ladies!

  5. I agree, DeAnna, with the other ladies. This is such a perfect follow up to yesterday's post. In one of her comments yesterday, Lisa asked if anyone is feeling overwhelmed. And then you posted this? Coincidence? I think not, especially when there are so many of us who needed this both yesterday and today. Thank you!

  6. Yeah, I was pretty amazed myself when I read yesterday's post and even Wednesday's about the burgeoning TBR stacks. But I had planned to write on this subject weeks ago . . . before I put my name on the calendar for today.

    Obviously, we all need to prioritize and slow down a bit.

    Yes, it's definitely about picking the best and not just the good.

    And, Susanne, as I mentioned, maybe some of the other people need to step up in your Parent Teacher Club or church ministries. I've always heard (and seen) that ten percent of the members of any organization does ninety percent of the work.

    Only because those ten percent let that happen!!

    Other people need to have a vested interest in these organizations, whatever they are. Maybe they think it's all taken care of and they're not needed. Maybe they think they couldn't do the job nearly as well as So-and-so who's "always" done it. Maybe they just want to get the benefits of membership and not pitch in. Whatever it is, those people are missing the blessing of being involved and helping out and feeling appreciated and needed. And some of us "over-doers" need to step back and let them take part.

    Thanks, ladies, for all the great comments.

    And, yes, Anita, the cats are pretty low maintenance. As long as I let them run things. ;)


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