Faith Spilling Over… Into Everyday Life

When to Let Go of Your To-Do List


walk in the way 1When school and back-to-busy life start up in the fall, I become Woman on a Mission. And let me tell you, it’s not pretty. I barrel through the day with my to-do list, and my mission is to cross everything off of it. If someone in my family needs help or wants something, I get huffy and bent out of shape because they’re interrupting my plans!

I told you it wasn’t pretty.

Recently, after a full day grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, organizing books, and reading school materials, I heaved a sigh of relief and turned on my computer. At last I was going to finish some record keeping that had been hanging over me for weeks. I hadn’t worked longer than 5 minutes when my 17 year old son came in, sat down, and looked at me, waiting.

My mother radar went up. Sure enough, he started talking.

Any mother of teens knows that when a MAN child comes in to talk to his MOTHER, it’s time to put everything down. I forced myself to close my laptop and look at him. We ended up having an important conversation. I left my record keeping undone, but I thanked God that I hadn’t missed out on something more meaningful.

Am I the only one who struggles with this?

Interruptions or Opportunities to Love on Our People?

What if I reframed interruptions to my schedule as opportunities to show love to the people around me? Often someone approaches us because they need help, need to talk, or want to connect.

walk in the way 2

One way to walk in the way of love is to be willing to lay aside our plans and show love in practical ways. Interruptions like these are a chance to give a bit of ourselves and our time to family and friends:

  • Helping your daughter with her dress while you’re rushing to get ready for a wedding yourself
  • Running an errand for your husband on the way home
  • Helping a co-worker with his project
  • Sending a text to encourage a friend even when you don’t have a minute to spare

We say “I love you” so easily, but demonstrating it is more difficult.

Interruptions or Divine Assignments?

Sometimes God has a different plan for our day than we do. Often what we view as interruptions are actually divine assignments. We have a choice. Will we hold onto our to-do lists for dear life, or will we flex and respond to God’s direction?

God is more interested in using us to touch lives than he is in our productivity. He wants to see how we reflect Him to those around us, not how many things we crossed off of our list.

Of course not EVERY interruption is a divine assignment. We need discernment to recognize when it’s God sending someone our way. That’s when it’s time to let go of our to-do list.  That’s when I’d rather be a Woman Walking in Love than a Woman on a Mission.

What about you? Do you struggle to let go of your to-do list? Or do you find it easy to flex?

Note: Check out Leah diPascal’s amazing story about overriding her to-do list for a divine assignment from the Proverbs 31 Devotional site.

Linking up with Meredith Bernard today:






Author: betsydecruz

I want to enjoy the everyday life God is giving me as best I can, even when the road gets bumpy. I love having fun with my teenagers, learning almost anything, and drinking dark roast coffee with my friends.

19 thoughts on “When to Let Go of Your To-Do List

  1. Betsy- This is me. I struggle with letting go of my list and inviting interruptions as opportunities to love. Efficiency is an idol that I have to smash every day… and I this line of yours is going on my fridge: “We say “I love you” so easily, but demonstrating it is more difficult.” Thank you for sharing your writing gift here, and for this message. Perfect!

  2. I definitely deal with this on a daily basis. The Lord has been working on me, though. This message has been coming at me from every direction and I need to be constantly reminded that people are my purpose…not my productivity. Thanks for helping me keep this in focus. You are a blessing!

  3. Betsy, when I read your post I seemed to remember that Henri Nouwen had written something along the same lines. Thanks to our friend Google, I found it quickly:

    “A few years ago I met an old professor at the University of Notre Dame, Looking back on his long life of teaching, he said with a funny wrinkle in his eyes: ‘I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work.’ That is the great conversion in our life: to recognize and believe that the many unexpected events are not just disturbing interruptions of our projects, but the way in which God molds our hearts and prepares us for his return. Our great temptations are boredom and bitterness. When our good plans are interrupted by poor weather, our well-organized careers by illness or bad luck , our peace of mind by inner turmoil, our hope by a constant changing of the guards, and our desire for immortality by real death, we are tempted to give in to a paralyzing boredom or to strike back in destructive bitterness. But when we believe that patience can make our expectations grow, then ‘fate’ can be converted into a vocation, wounds into a call for deeper understanding, and sadness into a birthplace for joy.” – from Out of Solitude by Henri J. Nouwen

    He describes what you’re talking about as “a great conversion”!

  4. Oh, yes, Betsy…to be a woman walking in love rather than a woman on a mission twenty-four seven! I feel like the latter usually. Thank you for this insight today. I pray for discernment to know when to stop and listen and respond. It’s so much easier said than done for me most of the time. Love this!

  5. Betsy, I struggle with this so much. It is so difficult for me to stop what I’m doing right in the middle, even when I know that the interruption is more important. I am learning this, too. Divine assignments- yes. What a great way to look at it, and I believe that many times that is exactly what it is. Thank you sharing this!

    • Hey Abby, I’m with you there. Me too. I love this quote by Henri Nouwen that Jeannie (above) commented on: ‘I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work.’

  6. Great words, Betsy. Needed the reminder today!

  7. Thanks, Betsy for this today. I needed this reminder. Our sons need their mamas. I wonder how many times I missed those divine appointments because I was too busy doing something else. God continues to show me how important my role is as a mom, especially to teenagers and young adults! Love your insights here.

  8. I’ve always been afraid it would make my children feel they were not important enough if I did not stop when they interrupted me.
    Usually I’m pretty good about it. But I confess that I have a little secret backup plan for some situations. If the kids know I’m praying or working on a deadline and still interrupt just for chit-chat and nothing important, I’ll say that they just made me think of something I need help with.
    Nothing makes teenagers flee faster than making them think they might get more chores!

    • Ha ha, you are funny, Deborah! I’ve tried that strategy myself. Although I want to be open to important interruptions, when I’m working on a deadline or trying to complete a goal, I’ll say casually, “Hey I’m going to be working for the next hour in my room. I need to finish something.” That let’s them know now’s not the time for chit chat!

  9. I appreciated the H. Nouwen quote, Jeannie. It coalesces well with Betsy’s words. I am not a structured list sort of person, so that doesn’t keep me from divine appointments so much as spiritual dullness. As one woman said, “Antennae up” and that’s what I need more of: the Holy Spirit quickening me to his purposes and tasks for me.

  10. Thanks for sharing this. Yes, I tend to view these things as interruptions, too, even though I know I shouldn’t.

    I got this idea from Lisa at : When you write your to-do list, note next to each item who it blesses. For example, I’m washing my son’s sheets today, so I’d write his name next to that item. I don’t always remember to do this, but when I do, it helps.

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