Upgrading My To-Do List

Last May I was sitting at my Wednesday morning mom’s group table while we discussed our summer plans. I was chewing on some sweet kale salad and listening to other moms talk about free beaches and “music in the park”, when it hit me: Mom’s group can’t end! I will lose everything. My friends. My faith. My support. My mom-fidence!

With all of this in mind, I knew that all of my normal activities would come to an end. So I clung to the only comfort I had aside from carbs: structure (okay, and some carbs too).

I am insanely structured. I thrive on a schedule and to-do list. But take it away, and I am less go with the flow, and more on the ground in the fetal position with Dorito crumbs around my mouth crying, “What has my life become?

So, how did I cope with this change? Not well. Every Wednesday morning I began with my to-do list:  

  1. Clean kitchen.
  2. Change toy car battery.
  3. Cut up veggies for veggie tray.
  4. Vacuum living room.
  5. Change cat litter.
  6. Find new home for cats.
  7. Actually…be a better cat-owner.

And so on.  

A couple of weeks went by, and while I was writing my to-do list and crossing things off, I noticed that something was seriously missing. I didn’t feel satisfied. So I started adding other things on my to-do list…because if my to-do list was long enough and all crossed off, I would feel accomplished, right?

So I added:

   8. Wipe crumbs out of car seats.

   9. Check email.

   10. Go to target and buy unnecessary but adorable things.

This didn’t help.

I asked myself later that day, What did I even do today?!? Then I had the most exceptional epiphany: my to-do list….stunk! It was the most boring list of things to do. It was full of things that didn’t really matter (at least, not in my opinion anyway), so I started praying that God would upgrade my to-do list (as well as my attitude about my day.)

I therefore prayed that I would find purpose that summer — purpose in being a mom (in the small AND big things), in being a wife, and in being a friend. I also prayed that I would follow the Holy Spirit nudges when I felt them.

And WOW. God delivered! Slowly he added different tasks to my to-do list until it started looking a lot differently:

  1. Thank God for the day and ask him to lead me.
  2. Enjoy my son’s excitement while playing outside.
  3. Make a ‘bible verse board’ for my friend who needs scripture easily accessible.
  4. Write a heartfelt thank you card to all the workers helping to build my home.
  5. Give money to my friend in need.
  6. Clean the house so my kids have a tidy and safe environment to play and grow in.
  7. Go down all the slides with my son at the park today.
  8. Pray in the car out loud with the kids.
  9. Prepare healthy dinners for our bodies.
  10. Watch my nieces so my sister can get a break and feel rejuvenated.

When I started letting God write my daily to-do list, I found purpose, joy, and ease. I was happier…and my children reaped the benefits of a truly happy mom too.

So here’s a question for you today: does your to-do list look like chores or opportunities? Do you write out your to-do list without praying about your day? Or could you use an upgrade in this area?

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Sometimes it is important to clean our house or change dirty diapers. These things ARE included in the good works we are called to do, and Jesus DOES see us in these moments. But what are the other things? Those thoughts that the Holy Spirit places on your heart? Those ideas that come out of nowhere, but are relevant and could help your child, husband, friend, or a stranger? What if those are among the tasks God has planned in advance for you to do.

So if you’re in a place right now where your day seems to lack meaning and purpose, then maybe you’d like to upgrade your to-do list. Here are a few steps that helped me:

  1. Pray that God will help change your to-do list in ways that align with his purpose.  
  2. Place Ephesians 2:10 by your mirror or somewhere you can see it often.  Reflect on it as much as you can.
  3. Write down the nudges you feel are from God. Make sure they align with his word.
  4. Follow through. When God places something on your heart, do it!  This can be hard. I felt nervous writing a vulnerable and honest thank you card to hundreds of construction workers, but after doing so I couldn’t believe the fruit that came from it! I’m so glad I followed through with this task, even though it made me feel uncomfortable.
  5. Reflect on and change your to-do list as needed. God will keep giving you more and more tasks!
  6. Last, enjoy this new way of living daily life. It will bring you so much joy!

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”  

I want my to-do list to look like opportunities to fulfill the Lord’s purpose. I want my tasks to be glorifying to God, and fulfilling to me. I want my day to be used well.

Sarah Gonzalez is a stay-at-home mom who loves Jesus and caring for her two young children. She loves date nights and walks with her husband, and using creativity and humor through artistic outlets like writing and photography.  She is also a self-diagnosed quitter-in-recovery, and you can read about this journey at her blog: www.wheniquitquitting.com.