My life has become impossibly busy and cluttered lately. May is such an insane time for teachers. You wouldn’t think that 2 year olds need a progress report, but apparently they do and it’s all the rage to give them one. It’s all official-looking and says things like “Sits Still” and “Plays Nicely with Other Children.” Show me a 2 year old that sits still and plays with other children…I dare you. The preschool I work at has a lovely tradition of sending home a scrapbook for EACH child documenting their entire year at school. If you know me, you know I’m a minimalist. While other people enjoy slicing up perfectly good photos and attaching all sorts of flotsam and jetsam to them, I enjoy printing them out and carefully placing them in a photo album in a very specific way that tells a story of romance and adventure. When faced with a choice between hours of cutting up flotsam to paste on a chaotic piece of expensive paper or arranging a story of romance and adventure, which would you choose? I think a scrapbook is a great idea, we have families who desperately need to experience the love of Christ, and giving them such a personalized gift with so much love and time poured into it can be a really powerful display of that love. That being said, this is my first ever time teaching an entire year of preschool and my first attempt at gathering materials for and creating 14 scrapbooks. (With help from my assistants of course) Like everyone else in the world, I also have many other responsibilities such as taking care of my husband, my extremely troublesome dog, and my home. Add a small business and the impending visit of my family, and it adds up to alot of work and the impossible division of my attention, skills, and time.
One of my biggest frustrations in life is not being able to give 100%. If I’m making 8 scrapbooks, I want all 8 of them to be wonderful and look pretty and make the angels weep with their understated elegance. I want my dog to be the best-behaved, prettiest dog on the block. I want my husband to love coming home to our impeccably clean and welcoming house and to never have to collapse on the couch and take a nap because I kept him up last night steaming the carpet. When life gets impossibly busy, either one or all suffer. There are only a few hours in a day, and never enough for perfection.
First, I have to wonder if my standard for excellence is set a bit too high. I strongly believe in giving my all in whatever I’m doing, but when time and energy and resources do not allow, is it ok to lower the standard for excellence and just get it done the best you can?
Second, what happens to priorities when a big job demands time normally given to family and ministry? I’ve been a pastor’s kid, a NAMB kid, and a professor’s kid. I’ve seen firsthand the kind of sacrifices a family makes to serve in the church or on the field. At what point is it ok to sacrifice excellence in your family in order to attain excellence at your job?
I’m sure others wrestle with this dilemma as much as I do. Often I find that jobs and responsibilities need to take a backseat to Life. If I don’t live and relax and spend time with people, then what kind of teacher am I going to be? Does my messy house really matter when a parent with tears in her eyes comes back to thank me for a scrapbook? One thing I do know, is that God and people always trump jobs and things. Always. If leaving the dirty dishes means a movie night with Brian, than it’s definitely movie night. If staying up too late to finish a scrapbook means that a lost family sees the love of Christ through our teachers, I can “rest in heaven” as my Dad says.
So how do you do it? How do you pursue excellence and decide which area of your life receives less attention? How do you prioritize? Do we glorify God less when we compromise excellence in any area of our life?
Are you a bit of a control freak like me?