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?