Last Updated on January 4, 2019

Something tells me I’m not the only one with a to-do list that’s got a lot more mileage than my day.

You’ve been there. When my feet hit the un-vacuumed carpet in the morning and my arms swoop up my toddler in his footie pajamas, smelling like he’s ready for a change, my brain-fog is swirling in the direction of “Oh, man. Here we go.”

From there, you’re hoping to sit down for at least one meal, scratch off more on than you add to the sticky note/marker board so you’re at least breaking even — don’t forget to remember everything that’s supposed to be on there — and be able to quit not long after the kids go to bed.

My to-do list is written in whatever writing utensil I could find in the don’t-forget-it moment, crayons included. It includes items from the frantic (“CALL JESS”) to the not-gonna-happen (“clean ceiling fans”), from the cryptic personal shorthand (“WGWFC to BR”) to the weird (“toenails”), and from the character-building (“be PATIENT!!!”) to the never-leaving (“laundry”).

I, for one, have witnessed that when Jesus said each day has enough trouble of its own, He wasn’t kiddin’. Each day there’s a new batch just waiting.

That’s not to complain. Each day holds its new encounters with God and His beauty, too. Only you newcomers will be surprised that I find a loyalty to my task list (which is designed, in theory, to love people well) competing with my loyalty to, you know, people. Like the sweet, short ones that always need something right now when I’m of course in the middle of something else. This is where my “patience raisin” enters the scene — you know, that fruit of the Spirit that looks kinda shriveled and overcooked in the middle of my day. Because being a mom with a task list means being a mom primed for an interruption.

This is where an online sermon of life-changing caliber caught me a couple of weeks ago. It was around 10 at night, and I was on the last-attempted list item for the day. I was (surprise!) multitasking. The voice of John Piper was interspersed with the hasty clatter of my sewing machine as I finished up sewing Musketeer costumes for my little boy’s fifth birthday present. This, of course, had to be done after he finally stopped popping out of bed like a piece of toast.

Piper was talking about George Müller, the 19th-century Christian evangelist with a killer goatee who, according to, “cared for 10,024 orphans in his life. … He also established 117 schools which offered Christian education to over 120,000 children, many of them being orphans.” Now that, my friend, trumps my to-do list. Yours? The guy must have had a patience watermelon.

But his quote astounded me. “I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord.”

The guy was caring for over 10,000 kids with no parents — that’s about five times my hometown — and at the top of his 19th-century sticky note (sticky slate?) was having his own soul happy in God. Not even serving or glorifying God, he notes. Being happy in him.

Piper pointed out (my paraphrase) that kids want to do what they see their parents happy doing. They’re not particularly inspired by our obligations, our duties. It’s the why that they understand — what drives us. What is the happiness, the treasure, that’s writing our life lists?

As Piper is known for saying, God is most glorified in us when we’re most satisfied in Him. I actually have a sister who’s got that tatooed between her shoulder blades in Hebrew: satisfied. In the depths of my heart, could I be marked satisfied? I mean, since there’s only One who really does it? In truth, when I’m not, my to-do list and everything else are just big ol’ life-suckers. I’m trying to fill that God-shaped hole in my quest for soul-level happiness. My list is the one devouring me. I’m always worshipping something, right? It’s what I was created for. It’s just a matter of what, or Who, it is.

So often I’m finding myself clawing at a gut-level for achievement. Approval. Security. But instead, like Müller, I want “happy in God” not only to make the top of my sticky note but also to define my list. (Even more constant than laundry — and that says something.) In my morning brain-fog, I want to drift toward happiness in God. This verse keeps coming to mind now:

[verse reference=”Psalm 90:14″]Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.[/verse]

Piper said it so well that I can discipline myself toward this end: carve out the time, discipline my heart and meditate on Him, make the choices toward God-satisfaction. But ultimately, it’s Him who grants this fullness of soul: my God-happiness. It’s His call.

So … I need to hand over the sticky notes. And probably the patience raisin.

This post originally appeared on MomLife Today on March 16, 2011


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  1. Christine says:

    I loved this! Thank you for the insight and encouragement!

  2. THANK YOU, Janel! I really needed to read this today! Blessings on you and yours!

  3. Janel Breitenstein says:

    Thanks so much for the encouragement. My last couple of days prove that this is way easier to write about than to carry out…!

  4. Just what I needed to hear today. Thank you!

  5. Thanks! Just what I needed to hear today. Your life sounds like mine. 🙂 We are about to have our 3rd… our oldest is 2 1/2 this week. Hope you write more. You're very witty and wise!

    1. Janel Breitenstein says:

      Thanks so much for taking the time out of your craziness to encourage me like that, Caroline. You're right, we have some true similarities! My husband and I had four kids four and under (now six and under–getting easier!), so I was right where you were, and it is a TOUGH reality for awhile. Praying for a healthy delivery for you as you work hard to raise a godly family day after day!

  6. Ahh the "brain frog"…I can relate! I am reminded daily that I can't do this mommy stuff without His leading. I'd go bananas!! Thank God for new mercies everyday! Lamentations 3:21-23 says it best: "This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness."

    1. Janel Breitenstein says:

      Love it, Tiffany. Great reminder–great verse.

  7. Janel,
    I missed this when it was first published, but it was so on time, for me, today. Blessings, my friend.