When it feels like you’re spinning plates

By Denae Jones – 

We are in the process of selling a house and buying a house. You don’t realize how much clutter you’ve accumulated until you have to move it! It’s exhausting. My family has especially loved me over these last few weeks because I’ve had them going through every nook and cranny before they dare put anything into a box. I refuse to move anything that isn’t practical and necessary to have. (My husband argues that my bag of their favorite baby clothes is something that I probably don’t need. But I told him I either get to keep the clothes or have another baby. Funny. He decided the bag of clothes is necessary to keep after all.) We have literally given away about half of our possessions, and it feels awesome. There is something freeing about not having all of that stuff weighing you down, and something even finer about donating to others who can use it.
It got me thinking about how much other clutter is in our lives. It’s easy to get rid of the material clutter, but the mental clutter is a bigger challenge. Most days, I feel like I’m spinning plates. It can be exciting and fun to watch, but it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Everything and everyone needs one hundred percent of my time and attention at the same time. If I turn my focus on something else for too long, all of the other things come crashing down.
Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I’m generally the historian of the group. I’m the one who takes all of the pictures and remembers useless information like who sat next to who in homeroom in the first grade. What I’d like to know is how do I remember all of that, but can’t remember my kids’ names when I’m calling for them? Or a conversation I had with my husband just yesterday? It has to be the mental clutter. I didn’t spin plates in first grade. The biggest decisions I had to make back then was which pair of corduroy alphabet pants to match with my Mork suspenders and Hush Puppies shoes.
So how do we decide what to keep and what to get rid of? We generally accumulate mental clutter by over-booking our calendars, worrying about things we can’t control, and losing our focus. I don’t know about you, but I have to be deliberate about eliminating some of it, or it gets out of control.
We are always busy doing something, but sometimes it’s good to ask what exactly we are busy doing? Is it something that brings joy or stress? Is it something that helps or hurts? It took me a lot of years to figure it out, but I finally learned to do one very important thing. Delegate. If my calendar was so filled up that it stressed me out and stole too much joy from my family, I learned to turn it over to other capable hands.
One of the best things I’ve done in a long time was to cancel our television service at the beginning of this summer. I was expecting outrage. And fights. And complaining that life had ended. I was flabbergasted that it took days before anyone even noticed. And when they did, they just turned their focus to other things. Fun things. Unexpected things. We started having afternoon wiffleball games, and the whole family and a few neighbors would join in. The kids would work together to come up with silly games, like balancing two siblings on their shoulders and feet and seeing how long they can spin. (I don’t recommend that one.) The point is, life was so much happier when our focus moved from television and screens to things that made life more simple and more meaningful.
The most difficult part for me to change was to stop worrying about things I can’t control. I had to get a little help for this one. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Notice, it doesn’t say “Don’t be anxious about anything except if it’s something really important.” It says not to worry about ANYTHING. That’s way easier said than done. So, when I feel the stress and worry starting to boil up, I pray. Because, like my Grandma used to say, “If it’s too small to be made into a prayer, it’s too small to be made into a burden.” Then I speak my mantra to anyone who is listening. “God’s got this!” And then I thank Him for already taking care of the situation. In advance. Even the situations that seem impossible. Because guess what? Starting with the impossible is God’s specialty. I have so many examples of how this has happened in my life. So many.
Are you balancing the proverbial spinning plates? Is it exciting and fun, or a disaster waiting to happen? What can you do to make life simpler? What small changes could bring you more joy? It’s amazing what God can do with our broken lives if we are brave enough to give Him all of the pieces. He’s cool like that.
Have a blessed week, friends!