I have a lot of plates. A LOT. Too many, really.
When I got married 15 years ago, I registered for the same dishes my cousin had registered for the year before at her wedding. I didn’t know it at the time and didn’t do it on purpose – but nobody was surprised when we realized it. See, I’ve been copying my cousins my entire life, and when faced with a wall of plates in a department store I subconsciously reverted back to the little girl who wore their hand-me-down neon t-shirts and stonewashed jeans. After all, who needs Pinterest or Real Simple when you can just copy your cool, older cousins’ style?
So a few years ago, when my cousin bought new dishes (the colorful Fiestaware that YES, I TOTALLY WANT NOW), she boxed up her white pottery with the navy stripe and brought it to my house. What a generous gift! And yet . . . some of those lovely dishes still sit in boxes on a shelf in my garage.
All those dishes – her set plus my own – won’t fit in my cabinets. Given my tendency for putting off little things like doing the dishes, however, I cram as many plates into the cabinet as I can.
When I open that cabinet, I’m reminded of the way we talk about having too much on our plates. I have too many plates in my cabinet and, oh yes, way too much on my proverbial plate.
Since about the second week of returning to work after having a baby this winter, I’ve started my day the same way. I pry open my eyes, squint at the clock and reach for my phone. I swipe it open to check text messages, email and Facebook – looking for notices that tell me I forgot something or did something wrong.
Lots of times, I do indeed receive early morning confirmation that I screwed up. Again. And my day has begun, with me stumbling to the computer as I jiggle a baby on my hip and holler at a six-year-old to brush her teeth and her hair because we’re going to be late for school. Again.
I can’t seem to get it together, you all.
I’ve told more than one person that all I seem to do these days is miss deadlines and let people down. Dropping balls is my new hobby, and I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the reality that I am not and will likely never be on top of things. My plate is so full it’s overflowed onto other plates, and somehow they climbed up onto sticks and started spinning.
But I can’t spin plates. Especially overfull ones! I just can’t. And so those full plates – those beautiful, colorful, breakable plates – keep crashing to the ground. Shattering. Cutting. Scattering.
You can hear it, right? The anxiety these plates give me? The proverbial ones, of course, not my actual plates in my actual cabinet. But those plates that are actually my schedule, my to-do list, my hours in a day, my priorities and responsibilities – they are killing me.
Thankfully, I’m not alone in this plate madness. My husband asks, “How can I help?” My counselor nudges, “What would it look like if you said no?” My manager says, “Tell me if you don’t have time.” And someone else points out, “You made this deadline; not me. It doesn’t have to happen this week.”
And just like that, the chaos calms and those plates stop spinning. I can’t say the same for my mind; it takes more than kind words and a couple offers to help to stop the whirring and worrying there.
But then another Voice speaks up. And He says, “It’s okay. Put down the plates. Step away from the table. Lean on me. BREATHE.”
Put down the plates. And for the love of pottery, stop adding things to the plates!
God never asked me to say yes to every project, every opportunity, even every need or every person. He didn’t. I don’t see it in the Bible where He commanded me to do it all or die trying.
I’m pretty sure He said the opposite, actually.
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.
“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest.
In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.”
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
He said this because there were so many people coming and going
that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Oh, yes. There’s the Truth – and the Peace I’ve been missing.
I can’t promise that I’ll stop checking my email before rolling out of bed, but I am working on saying no more often and accepting the gift of rest that God is offering.
What do you do when you have too much on your plate?Leave a Comment
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
You self-talked your way beautifully from the lies (you gotta have spinning full plates) to God’s truth (which is be still and breathe…rest). The one little word that stands between the lies and the truth is “No”. Your worth and purpose are not in those spinning plates, they are in just being you – the wonderful creation that God made. You are not a “hand me down”!! I guess I’m being passionate because I used to be you years ago. That is, until God taught me that often less is more. He wanted me to be intentional, fully present in what I was doing so that meant that some things had to go…another disciple needed to excel at what I said “No” to. It’s your turn to hand down some things to others and fully enjoy and be present in the fewer things you say “Yes” to.
Raising young children is a big job unto itself…believe me you will have time for serving and saying “yes” latter on, but you will be too tired if you burn yourself out now. Rest and “be” my friend! Great post!
Mary Carver says
Thank you for the encouragement, Bev! I struggle with saying no when, even though *I* know that my worth is in who I am not what I do, other people only seem to value what I do. And though I know God’s opinion is a trillion times more important than man’s…it’s still hard to let people down. So YES, a lot of self talk is necessary to keep me from going crazy! 🙂
I love this.
Brittnie (A Joy Renewed) says
I love this, Mary. I struggle with putting WAY too much on my plate, and it is (usually) all self imposed “to dos” and/or deadlines. So silly. Need to step back, breathe, and take a load off!
Mary Carver says
Yes, yes – the self-imposed craziness is the worst on so many levels. I’m right there with you, Brittnie!
Melanie @ Carmel Moments says
It’s so easy to say ‘Yes’ to many things. Fun things. Kingdom things. Mom things. Wife things. Friend things.
But I’ve realized how stressed I am when my kids are in organized sports. I have to do all the running because my husband works long hours. So, if I’m left stressed and a mess how is this fulfilling in our life? It’s not.
So I choose wisely and they do very little. In return I think it’s teaching them the importance of their siblings because they’re together so much.
Thanks for sharing your heart. May God continue to show you what’s most important and what you can let go of.
Have a beautiful day!
Mary Carver says
Oh goodness, don’t even get me started on the madness of kids’ activities. It makes my head spin and my oldest is only 6! I want my girls to have every opportunity…but I don’t want them (or me) to be insane with the busyness of life. Finding a balance feels impossible, so I’m thankful for moms like you who show me the example of saying yes to less!
I am currently assessing what to say “yes” to for the fall. I was carrying a full load and kept adding more and more plates to the pile, not realizing that I was headed for the tipping point until almost too late. It is SO hard to pare it down!!! And yet I know that it’s more about having trouble disappointing people, rather than God. So, with help from God I hope to be able to discern what He is truly asking me to carry. I want to leave room for unexpected ministry moments as I go about my day. Instead of filling each moment, I want to leave room for Jesus to speak to me. Blessings!
Mary Carver says
Such wisdom, Kristen – leaving room for Jesus is the number one reason for us to carry emptier plates!!
I totally understand!
When you are young and raising a family and working hard with integrity to start a business and not enough money coming in When you have to sell the business because of your husbands health issues and move hundreds of miles away from what you had known for 30 years, and find work your plate is full.
When you come to age of 80 and you daughter had died 22 years ago of breast cancer leaving two children and your husband of 61 years dies of heart and cancer four years ago but seems like yesterday, you plate is full. W hen you struggle to move on and find a purpose for the day, this is a plate of strength you pray for.
As years go by the plate keep’s changing and try as you might it seems difficult.
Mary Carver says
Elizabeth, yes, thank you for sharing this wisdom. You’re right – no matter what stage we’re in, we have the potential to fill our plates with everything BUT Jesus. May we focus on Him and follow Him, no matter what season we’re in!
Rachel G. says
What a good reminder. Thank you so much for sharing!
Jeanne Takenaka says
Beautiful post, Mary. Your transparency blesses.
Yes, I’ve been there, and I still find myself spinning plates for seasons at a time. It’s so easy to get caught up in the to-do’s, the seeking affirmation, the trying to live up to everyone’s expectations. Yep, been there.
A couple years ago, my husband (normally the no-sayer in our family) and I committed to toooo much. Everything we committed to was good—ministering to others in many forms. Our kids had commitments and we had our individual commitments. We staggered to the end of that season, barely carrying the plates we’d filled.
We both stepped back from all ministry for a year. The only thing I committed outside of our home was helping at our boys’ school. It was a year of rest. I found stepping back from commitments gives me time and distance so I can pray about what to say yes to. I can hear God’s voice more clearly as to what He wants me/us to say yes to. People don’t always like my “No,” but if it’s how God directed me, then I can live with that.
Mary Carver says
Oh yes, that’s the killer, isn’t it? When all the STUFF on our plates is GOOD? *sigh* I find that the hardest. Even harder than letting people down, really, is just missing out on the good stuff – even though I know, when I slow down, that good stuff can often take up so much room we miss the best stuff. I loved reading about your year of rest, Jeanne. Thank you for sharing that!
Thank you! A very well needed reminder, and a wonderful confirmation of what the Lord has been speaking to my heart as of late. 🙂
Lanette Haskins says
Mary you have no idea how much I needed this!!! I was just praying about what I need to give up, to let go of and what to keep. Don’t get me wrong- they’re all good things, helpful things but too much of a good thing is TOO MUCH! I’ve overcommitted and overextended myself more times than I can count and rest….what does that even look like??? It’s been so long that I’ve actually “rested” that I don’t know if I even know how anymore.
Overwhelmed. I’m dropping the ball too, always running late because if I can do just one more thing…well, you know the story.
I even struggle with sleep. I stay up way too late- maybe because I’m afraid I’ll miss something or I want to give this “relaxing” thing a shot but it never ends up that way because I just fill that time in with something else.
Lord have mercy! I think I need to spend some time with Him…
Thanks for your encouraging words- it helps to know I’m not in this alone 🙂
Mary Carver says
You and me both, Lanette. Spending more time with Him would undoubtedly relieve this pressure and anxiety. Praying we both make time today and every day to do just that! (And that we can go to bed on time for once!) 🙂
I could have written this myself! I recently left my corporate job to be a working at home mama and I have been adding so many plates to live financialky like we did before and am burning out. Like you I habe felt God saying you don’t have to plan every penny to the T….leave room for trust in me 🙂
Mary Carver says
Leaving room for God – this seems to be a theme in the comments today and in my heart when I stop to listen to the Truth He whispers. Praying you can find the balance He desires for you in this new season, Megan!!
THANK YOU I NEEDED TO BE REMINDED
Your children will grow up before your eyes and what do you want them to remember, a mom that yelled at them every morning to get ready or a mom that had time to be with them. Leave the phone in the car and don’t check it until after you drop the kids off. I know it will be hard but your job will always be there, your kids won’t.
Tracey C. says
I love this! I too have several sets of dishes from my grandmother on top of the ones we already own. I like the parallel to the things that we (as women) tend to pile up on our to-do list. As a mother of four, full time teacher, volunteer youth leader, and social butterfly, all my “plates” are also full!
When I feel overwhelmed, I try to categorize things into: must do now or can wait. It makes it much more manageable and then I have time for a relaxing bubble bath!
Dear Mary… you do have a full plate already… you have a baby and a six year old. You can say “no” to all the rest. =) Of course I know that isn’t quite true but I had a baby and a five year old and I remember how crazy it was.
One thing I have learned recently is that before I get out of bed I grab my phone (which doubles as my alarm clock) and hit my Bible app! I have the YouVersion app and I love it! Because getting up early is nearly impossible for me even when the grand-kid is whispering “Nana, we have to get up”…. LOL! But that wonderful little app helps me start my day out right. Even if it all falls apart from there I have a better attitude to deal with it.
God Bless you!
This is great and so perfect in timing!
I have on occasion bought a calendar and wrote in everything I needed to do in 3 months. Doctors, dentist and any appointments that I know about or need to plan. I pick one “down” day in the week where nothing is planned and I mean nothing but around the house stuff. We make this a day that the kids can bake with me or do a project. Then as time approaches these three months, I put in things around this schedule. I have learned to say no but recently I have reverted back to this crazy schedule without one no in my vocabulary. Headed out to get my calendar. That is if my feet can say “yes” to walking to the car cause I am beat tired….
Been there, lived that. I too, feel I let people down when I say no. It’s the enemy’s message speaking to me.
I remember a few years ago being overwhelmed with kids, teaching, heading children’s church, volunteering everywhere and saying “no I could not help this one time but let me know if you can’t find anyone else”. I felt so guilty that after an hour or so I called the person back and said I can go ahead and do it. She said oh I already got someone.
I was a person on a list of people she could ask. Even if it was a short list there is someone else who can help or it does not have to get done. It is a lie of the enemy that says everything must get done if it is scheduled.
One time I thought, “Have you ever asked somebody to do something and their response was, ‘I’m sorry, no I can’t?’ You were understanding and they did not let you down, you may have had to spend more time getting help but you found someone else to do it” (i.e. watching my children when I flew home to be with my mom when she was sick).
God says no for people’s own good and He created the word.
It is a great strategy of the enemy to tease you with good things so that you don’t get around to spending time with the best thing God and doing his will and only his will for that day which should leave you satisfied and refreshed instead of feeling guilty for what you did not get done and for lacking energy for your own family.
Last word of caution, I was a stay-at-home mom who volunteered everywhere and help people out in every need that I heard of, thinking I was at home with my kids I was being there for them.
My daughter one day said “Mom I feel like you were never there for me.” How surprised I was when I was her daisy scout leader homeroom mom helper in the classroom teacher at home etc.
I see her in an awesome church at USF campus now teaching second grade in Tampa, knowing who she is in the Lord and who the Lord is to her. She spends time with him first and throughout the day and is able to do what she needs to do for her second grade class and has learned to say no to more stuff in the house so I know when she has kids she’ll be able to say no to more activities. God bless the women who have compassionate hearts, to believe more in You and rely more on praying for, instead of doing for, all the needs out there. Including me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Jamie Rohrbaugh says
As a fellow pre-dawn phone checker, I totally identify! I’m going to have to find some ways to drop a few plates too. Beautiful analogy. I’d write more, but I see the little red Facebook notification on my phone, so I have to go check it now. 🙂
“…all I seem to do these days is miss deadlines and let people down. Dropping balls is my new hobby, and I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the reality that I am not and will likely never be on top of things.”
I know I felt this way a few years ago. I told my husband I had to stop. I couldn’t handle living under the stress any longer. It was physically wearing on me. I broke. And I healed under the power of saying “no.”
I’m so thankful. And I will never go back to that form of (so-called) “living.” Thank you for posting this!
I laughed a little when I read, “And someone else points out, “You made this deadline; not me. It doesn’t have to happen this week.”” I am exactly like that. I’m juggling and spinning so many plates – homeschool, college, five kids (including a 4 month old), blogging, writing a book, and more. It’s difficult for me to remember sometimes that my deadlines are all self-imposed. I’d love to have someone point it out more often!
Joanne Viola says
I loved this –> “put down the plates”. Sometimes we just need the reminder it really is OK to set them down. So glad to have read this post today. Blessings!
PS – I love the Fiestaware too but I think I will enjoy them on the table of someone else 🙂
Marie Bride says
Mary love it what a cute post with reference to too many dishes and copy catting your cousin.
But then lies in the depths that oh so important message that we as woman fall into the snare of not hearing: He did not ask us to do everything.
Bless you Dear Mary for drawing this to our attention and even making me laugh in spite of myself and my ever more dry sense of humor.
I really enjoy these posts. They remind me of the reason that I am here, where I came from, and where I hope to go. They help me remember promises that I know are real, but sometimes forget.
Kristy Byes says
Confession! I love plates too. And yes, I have way too many of them.
I have plates for everything. I have plates to match certain table cloths, holiday plates…and I mean ALL of the holidays, plates with roses on them, a set of china that my mother gave me because the place setting is named “Kristy” and I even have a set of dishes with my favorite Bible verse on them…that was not easy to find. I find myself “setting the table” for the 4th of July, “pumpkin” themed tables, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day…well…you get the picture. I love plates.
Mary, your analogy of having too much on our plate got me to thinking about my “many kinds” of plates. Plates were meant to be used. They are designed to put food on that helps us grow and sustain life. And we have to be careful of how much and what we put on that plate to keep ourselves healthy and useful.
At first, I didn’t want to “use” my special plates for fear that they would get damaged or scratched or horror of all horrors, broken. But that is what happens when we use what we have. It starts to look used, some even break into pieces, but there is always another plate…another opportunity to be used to fulfill our purpose.
Thank you for reminding me of this. I usually pull out my “Kristy” place setting for my birthday, but I forgot to do that this year. I think it may be time for me pull that plate out and remind myself of the One who loves me unconditionally, the One who calls me Beloved. It is the “special” place setting after all.