I stepped out of my son’s room, tiptoeing around the squeaky floorboard, intentionally hushing my breathing, lest he wake, again. I eased his bedroom door shut and took in the dark living room. An impressive array of LEGOs, alphabet puzzle pieces, and Peppa Pigs sat scattered on the carpet while a half-eaten apple sat on the kid’s table along with a pile of crayons in a pool of water. Dishes from dinner (and lunch, let’s be honest) were stacked in a haphazard pile in the sink. Dirty clothes and post-bath puddles littered the bathroom floor, along with an unflushed surprise in the toilet.

Bedtime had run twice as long as normal, and not in a sweet, I want to gaze at your adorable sleeping face type of way. Sleep regression had hit our house hard, and every bedtime was filled with tears and frustration for everyone involved.

RELATED: She Puts the House to Bed

It was late, I had a recorded lesson to watch for class as well as work to finish up. My earlier goal had been to take a quick shower and have a normal-ish bedtime, too, but those plans had clearly flown out the window. And so much for a few minutes of reading a just-for-fun book. All my to-dos piled up in my mind, pushing and shoving to vie for the first spot.

I’m never going to get it all done, I thought.

I inhaled, held my breath, then released. I would melt into an overwhelmed puddle if I tried to carry the weight of everything. Just do the next best thing.

My eyes skimmed across my well-loved house. To even make it to the couch, I needed to dodge toy landmines. I knelt on the floor and tugged the gray toy bin to myself, scooping up LEGO blocks and tossing them in. Thank you, God, that these toys everywhere mean my kids have fun and can enjoy playing each day. I threw the rest of the toys in a second bin, then placed both containers to their homes on the bookshelf. I grabbed a rag from the kitchen and mopped up the watery crayons, tossing the apple into the compost bin as I went. Thank you, God, that someone chose a healthy snack today. 

My mind whirled. Only a thousand more tasks to go. Deep breath in, then out. I can’t do it all at once.

Just do the next best thing.

I focused on one task at a time, leaning into each little job as I went. God, thank you for these dishes that mean my family is fed. Thank you for the new knowledge from this class so I can grow and learn. Thank you that my son is still asleep. 

I didn’t finish everything, but I completed enough before I flopped into bed myself. The thing is—I’m never going to get everything finished. There’s always going to be a to-do list (buy groceries, do more laundry, ask my husband to fix the broken lid, figure out how to start a garden, read up on how to combat a toddler’s sleep regression, start our taxes, etc). And it’s overwhelming when everything rolls around in my mind, clamoring for my attention. Am I forgetting something? Did I forget a meeting?

RELATED: A Mother’s Mind Never Rests, Because We Carry The Mental Load

I want to hide under the covers, hoping it’ll go away. I can’t do it all. But I can do the next best thing, praying and blessing my family as I go.

Friend, none of us can do it all, much as we may want to.

But you can choose to lean into the task at hand. Do the next best thing. If it’s the dishes, wash and scrub to the best of your ability. If it’s studying or writing a paper, cite your sources and make your paragraphs shine. If it’s refereeing a fight or changing a diaper or going to the grocery store, do it well, to the glory of God. Keep moving forward and do the next best thing. This whole life thing? Keep it up. You’ve got this.

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Gretchen Hoffman

Gretchen is a Jesus enthusiast, wife/mama, and math lover. When she's not playing with her kids or answering, "Why?" for the hundredth time, she enjoys reading, writing, and learning to live cross-culturally. You can find her on Instagram at @thewritegretchen.

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