The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

Third Thursdays: Caterpillars and Pretty Plates- One Mom’s Quest for Balance

I’m delighted to once again be participating in the Third Thursday Thoughts Hearts at Home blog hop. Hearts at Home seeks “to encourage, equip, and educate every mom in every season of motherhood using Christian values to strengthen families.” Today, we’re sharing tips we’ve discovered that help us achieve that elusive state called “balance.” 

I knew my life had spiraled out of balance when I yelled at my four-year-old for studying a caterpillar on the side walk.
We’d been making our way to the van to drive to swimming lessons when the baby, already buckled in the infant carrier, interrupted our rush with a blow-out diaper. 
I’d sniffed. Huffed. Sighed. And told my preschooler to get in the van and wait for me. Then I’d headed back inside to perform a quick bottom-cleaning and clothes-changing routine on the baby.
By the time I’d rescued my littlest one from her mess, we were inarguably late. Again. 
I raced back out to the garage, buckled the infant carrier in the van, and noticed the empty booster seat. Where was Lizzy?

I glanced at the drive way. No missing child. Jogged around to the back yard. No curly-headed girl. I began to holler my daughter’s name and was nearly ready to call the police when I spotted her on the sidewalk half a block down the street. Head bent, she was crouched on her haunches, her sheer purple swimming suit sparkling in the sun .

I hurried to her side and put a hand on Lizzy’s fly-away curls.  “What are you doing?” I asked curtly. 
Rarely still for anything, she sat motionless, her expression one of reverence and wonder.
“Honey, I asked you to get in the van.” I tugged at her arm and tried to pull her back to the waiting vehicle. She gave me a sweet smile, but remained in place.
  “We’re going to be late for swimming lessons,” I warned.
“But, Mommy,” she pleaded, “I found this fuzzy caterpillar on the sidewalk and I’m watching to see if it’s going to turn into a butterfly!”
“We don’t have time for watching caterpillars,” I exploded as I swept up my pensive child and carried her like a football tucked beneath my armpit.
The baby was red-faced and screaming when we reached the van and I felt like hollering right along with her. I buckled my swimming-suited girl into her booster and slid, grumbling, into the driver’s seat.  

We tore out of the garage and onto the street as I took a few deep breaths to calm the anxiety that was rising in my chest. 

The dashboard clock taunted me. But the face in my rear view mirror haunted me. 

My backseat passenger looked like she’d just missed her own birthday party. Silent tears drizzled down her soft pink cheeks. The shimmer of awe that had lit up her baby blues moments before had disappeared.
I swallowed hard, trying to rid myself of that lump of guilt rising in my throat. 
“What’s wrong?” I asked as we speeded toward the pool, “I thought you liked swimming lessons.”
“I do like swimming lessons, Mommy,” my honest child answered.“I just don’t like hurrying. It always makes my heart hurt.”
Now mine was the heart that was hurting. When had life spiraled into such a spin? And how could we get off this roller coaster?
I was only six years into motherhood and the equilibrium of our days was already askew. 

I needed help. We needed change. Certainly God had imagined more for us than this. 
Over the course of the next few years, the Lord prompted me to take a good look at my full-plate life and consider long and hard why I was filling our hours to the brim. 
Did my little ones really need to pursue every activity on the planet? Did I? Was there magic to being room mom, Sunday School teacher and Bible study leader all in the same season? Was there some unwritten rule that claimed my children would be smarter if they did more? 
As the Lord wooed me closer toward His heart, I began to realize that what I really longed for wasn’t a full calendar, but life to the full. I wanted to experience the reality of Jesus‘ promise in John 10:10- I’ve come to give you life, life to the full- and I wanted my children to experience that, too. 
When God added two more children to our family, I began to wonder if all the hurry and flurry of our days were actually preventing us from tasting abundant life. 

Who has time for studying caterpillars or sunsets when she is racing to the next commitment? 

Who sheds her shoes and stands on holy ground to marvel at a burning bush when she’s lighting a fire beneath her children’s little feet to get them moving to the next thing on the day’s overstocked itinerary?
And so began my long quest to balance my family’s need to do and to be. On some days, I don’t feel any different than the barking mama who yelled at her daughter for studying a caterpillar. Some days are still stacked high and teeter dangerously on the edge of insanity. But on other days, the good days, I am learning to pare back, to say no to the full plate and yes to the full soul. 
One simple suggestion that has helped me to preserve a sense of balance in the muddled reality of my life is what I call the pretty plate philosophy. This fabulous idea comes from wise mom Aimee Kollmansberger, author of Living, Learning, and Living Simply blog.  Here’s what she says in Ann Kroeker’s book, Not So Fast:
I remember… being in a Bible study many years ago when the teacher said something I have never forgotten. She said that we can really only do two or three things well in a day… that the Lord is probably only speaking one verse to us each day and giving us a couple of things to accomplish as well…
We have all used the phrase “what do you have on your plate today?” I have started envisioning my day as a beautiful plate that can only hold about three portions. What will I put on my pretty plate today? Just enough to be healthy! I want to do a few things really well and listen to the Lord during the open spaces of my day for the goodness He wants to fill my plate with.. an abundance that I can now give to others He places in my path. As I eat my daily portion form His hand of the good works He has prepared for me to do, He will then give me ideas, encouragement, and inspiration to generously give away to others as I walk the rest of my day.
Keep your day simple… just a few things on your pretty plate. Enjoy margin in your time. Listen to the soft, gentle nudge of the Spirit with what to do next. Let go of being driven. Embrace grace… Walk lightly and in all things, love!
I’m still striving for balance, but offering God my life as a pretty plate has helped this mom of five to fill her hours with more than mere rushing and ranting. I’ll admit, some days I still feel like a worn out sock stuck in the spin cycle rather than a barefooted worshipper standing before a burning bush.  Just juggling the needs of a handful of growing children is far from pretty now and then. 

But by the grace of God, I am learning that a prayerful heart and a mind fixed on the Word can slow my soul even on the days that I can’t seem to harness my schedule.

 My plate looks different from day to day, but when I set it before the Lord each morning, He shows me the portions that need to be there and the ones that don’t. 

And believe it or not, most of the time, my plate has just enough room for a caterpillar or two!

The Overflow: I came so they might have life, a great full life -John 10:10

Thanks for stopping by today! I hope you leave with a few splashes of encouragement and a dozen drizzles of joy. Speaking of encouragement, be sure to check out this week’s FREE BOOK GIVE-AWAY. I can’t wait to send two lucky winners a copy of MOPS new devotional, Always There.  Consider it an early Mother’s Day gift. 
To participate in the fun, check out Tuesday’s post and leave me a comment. I’ll be tossing all the participants’ names in a hat and letting you know the results tomorrow. Hope you’ll stop back Friday to see if you’ve got a free gift heading your way!



8 thoughts on “Third Thursdays: Caterpillars and Pretty Plates- One Mom’s Quest for Balance

  1. Loved this…I can sympathize. Thank you for sharing.

    April 19, 2012 at 11:52 pm
  2. visitng from H@H hop, as I recover from PPD I to am reminded daily by my children to stop and enjoy the moment. We had a picnic in the backyard yesterday and I wanted the kids to eat and go down for naps right away. But I was reminded as they ran off to the playhouse after eating that 10 minutes wouldn’t hurt and I grabed my Bible for my daily reading time. So nice when our kids remind us to stop and rest in the moment

    April 20, 2012 at 12:32 am
  3. oooh, Alicia. i needed to read this today. oh, this right here: ” “I do like swimming lessons, Mommy,” my honest child answered. “I just don’t like hurrying. It always makes my heart hurt.”

    Now mine was the heart that was hurting. When had life spiraled into such a spin? And how could we get off this roller coaster?”

    but the part about listening to the Spirit’s nudge, letting go, embracing grace, walk lightly and love…oh, something just settled right in my spirit then. *thank you* oh, that precious baby–tears streaming–what a sweet mama you are–your heart broken for her to change.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:22 am
  4. Alicia, I love the pretty plate philosophy. Love the honesty of your girl. By now I am sure you have found a caterpillar and watched the whole metamorphosis with her? I too have had to reassess when I find myself yelling, frustrated, just to get to the places we are supposed to be. Thanks for your lovely comment yesterday.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:03 am
  5. I’m like your child whose heart hurts when it has to hurry. We’ve chosen not to be involved in everything so we have time to just be. Most of our friends think we’re weird, but I’m okay with that. Great post.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm
  6. wonderful honest post on a topic that we can all relate to – I have slowed to a different pace these days – and still have to remind myself to stop and be IN the moment with my children. Thanks for sharing – it’s a perfect reminder!!

    April 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm
  7. Momma in Progress

    Really, really love this. Thank you for sharing.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:57 am
  8. I am late to everything and I am always hurrying..what wrong with me! I want to have time to watch a caterpillar turn into a butterfly with my kids!
    I love this post!
    It fits me like a glove!

    April 25, 2012 at 3:22 am

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