Saturday, November 20, 2021

How to Use My Time

I've been rather quiet here on the blog this year. I haven't quite known why. I'm busy, but I've blogged through other busy seasons. In fact, this blog started when I was pregnant with my fourth child and had a four-, three-, and one-year-old.  That was an intense season, yet I blogged several times a week. 

When I look back to the first years of this blog and wonder how I could have been so consistent in writing, I think there were several factors. 

1. My children were young. They didn't mind photos shared online of themselves. Now I'm much more careful to protect their privacy.

2. My children were young. I was home all day, nearly every day, and they took naps. 

3. My children were young. While we talked and read books and learned the alphabet, they didn't require the full mental concentration required by teenage conversations and Algebra. 

4. Blogging was my one and only hobby. I now have more writing, speaking, and editing opportunities than I can ever do.

5. I'm deliberately choosing to limit my online time. I used to read a lot of blogs and maybe that translated into writing on this blog frequently. I now read a lot more books and read online much less frequently. 

6. My blog subjects have changed a lot through the years. I used to write a lot about gardening and bread baking. When Ed got sick, I didn't garden and bake much. This blog became a cancer journal. Now I don't know what exactly to write about. I don't want it to be only a grief journal. I still rarely baking bread. Some of the big topics in my head don't feel like topics of general interest or I don't know how to express them in an edifying manner. 

I've thought a lot this past year on how I make decisions on how I use my time. Not just blogging, but all of life. I think the fact that I have the brain power to reflect and analyze means that I'm moving beyond simply survival mode.

This past week I taught the youth girls' Bible study on "how to know the will of God." It is a common question that youth ask and one I still don't think I have many answers. In preparing for the lesson, I thought back through my own years as a single and how I stressed about decisions. There seemed to be so many options - work, school, travel, missions. There were so many good ways to use my time, and I didn't want to mess up. I knew I couldn't do it all and had to choose. 

When I married, suddenly that stress was gone. I was committed to my husband. I knew every morning my goals were to care for my husband and our home, and, eventually, babies. There was a deep settled peace in knowing that Ed's goals were now my own. Any decisions were made together as a team, but the pressure of final decisions was on Ed. When I found a new opportunity, such as blogging,  Ed gave me direction. Usually he was my biggest supporter, the one who pushed me to do things I felt unqualified to do - such as teach a prison Bible study. But occasionally he sometimes he suggested that I already had enough to do and should decline. I found real rest in his counsel.

In the last year I've been inundated with opportunities to write, speak, edit, and serve in various ways. Since I no longer have babies and I'm not caring for a sick husband, I feel freer than I have in years. But time doesn't grow, I still have the same twenty-four hours. 

I greatly miss having Ed's input, his opinions on when to say "yes" or "no." I have people in my life who I can ask advice, but it is far different than asking someone who exactly knows your daily routines and responsibilities and knows whether adding another activity will be a blessing or a weight. 

As a widow, there are chunks of time that I used to dedicate to my husband that are now mine to use. I haven't known how to balance the added responsibilities of widowhood with the added freedom. Like many life decisions, there is no rule book. Yes, the Bible gives life direction, but I will had lots of questions. If I say  "no" was it out of selfishness or to not overwhelm an already full schedule? If I said "yes" was it out of a desire to serve or to gratify my feeling of achievement? 

I can drive myself crazy trying to discern my motives. Because of my personality, I tend to be very performance driven and find my identity in what I do. I worry that I'm making a decision based on my ego. 

After a few conversations with friends, I began reflecting on my past decision making and what I believe God has given me to do. I jotted down some principles to guide my use of time. For example: 

My first God-given responsibility is a mom. For me that means: 

  • I will place priority in activities that I can do with my children. This year that has meant several service-focused trips and a weekly children's ministry that we could do together as a family. While I may leave my children on occasion, I don't want overnight trips to become common.
  • I aim to limit my writing/editing/blogging to the early morning hours before my children are up. That means that I don't have time for all the projects I could do, or even want to do, if I had more hours at my computer. 

Second, I want to prioritize my local church community. For me that means investing in local relationships, helping with the youth girls' Bible study, and serving in my local church. I'll be honest, sometimes these projects aren't as exciting as other opportunities, but I think they should come first. 

Evaluating my present responsibilities can both eliminate and highlight areas of service. For example, since I homeschool, most of my mornings must be at home. I can't substitute teach at our church school, for example. But I can teach Sunday School since I'm already going to be at church on Sunday, and I can study in the early morning hours. 

Evaluating my responsibilities can also reveal areas that I can become more efficient. If I get to bed earlier and not waste time on my phone, I can then wake up early and have time for writing before breakfast. If I streamline housework during the day, then the children and I will be free to serve together in the evening.

I can't do it all, obviously, and sometimes I fail to do well what I try to do. But evaluating my time and priorities helps me consider how my choices affect my children and my other goals.

We are almost to Thanksgiving and a new year is around the corner. If you have never evaluated your responsibilities and priorities, I encourage you to sit down and make a list - if you are a list maker like me. You may find that it gives clarity to you as you start a new year.

I'd love to hear how you choose between several good activities. Do you have a mental checklist or priority list that helps you prioritize your time? Have you seen your use of time change with seasons of life as a single, or young mom, or older mom? What role do others (your husband, friends, mentors) play in helping you make decisions?


  1. Hi Gina! I am not a widow, but this post resonated with me 100%. I am mulling over some of these same questions, and this post helped clarify some things in my mind. Thanks for writing it out. Time is so fleeting, but we will be judged some day how we use this resource. Lately I have been convicted how I have been wasting too much of my this felt like a God send. I kept thinking "Yes! Thats what I needed to hear!" as I read this post... Technology is a great thief of time and I liked your example of limiting time online. I needed this today. God bless you for sharing...

    1. Thanks Diane,
      I wonder if all of us recognize the fleeting of time as we approach the end of another year.

  2. Great thought Gina!
    The subject of how to spend my time next year has been in my thoughts recently. In a couple weeks I will be leaving my job and just after the new year begins I will be babysitting our new grandson. He will be 3 months old then. Life will be really different at my age and home with a little one. I'm not sure exactly how it will all unfold but my goal is to be mindful of how I spend these fleeting moments.
    Thanks for sharing your heart and thought process. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

    1. I know you will love your time with that grandbaby!

  3. I'm interested in how you "streamline" your housework....i have trouble being too inefficient with my work!

    1. Well, part of it has been decluttering. It is easier to clean when I have less stuff!

  4. Gina,
    I have been following your blog for a long time and I always feel uplifted from your posts

    I’ve been a widow for 21 years. When my husband passed unexpectedly I had a 16 year old 12 year old, and an 9 year old and was 6 months pregnant with our last blessing. I miss my husband’s companionship and counsel the most. I understand what you mean about decision making.

    This blog confirmed what I have been thinking about lately. I’ve fallen into some bad habits with my time. I’ve felt God whispering to me I could do better. Thank you for taking your precious time to blog. God bless you and your family.

    1. Blessings to you. I admire you widows who have faithfully been serving God alone for many years.

  5. Such a great topic!

    I've been following your blog for a number of years, though rarely comment (this may actually be my first comment!)

    I have quite a bit to juggle with my time!

    I find having a routine helps get things done, whether it's daily, weekly or otherwise (so things like the washing up and making the bed are daily, the food shop is weekly, that sort of thing). I write the tasks down in my paper diary and cross them off as I do them.

    I work part days Tues/Wed/Thurs, and the tasks for each role (I admin 2 projects) get written down in a divided notebook, so I cross things off as they get done. I'm very visual, so it really helps to have that visual cue, be able to see my progress.

    I'm also secretary for a Deaf football ("soccer" on your side of the Atlantic) team, and that workload fluctuates week by week.

    Having the paper diary really helps me plan, organise and prioritise my day, and I write down the tasks at the start of each day to help me process and plan them (it also has the added benefit of not having to worry about battery life or internet connection, unlike with an electronic diary!) Lists are essential.

    I have to work with my disabilities and health conditions that limit my energy levels, which can be really challenging, especially if the weather is bad (winter is worse generally, due to the cold and damp), as it affects my body (generally in the form of increased pain and fatigue). I have to be careful to pace myself and build in rest to my days.

    I used to have to plan things around my husband's schedule, but as he left me 2 years ago to have a baby with another woman (while still married to me), things rather changed. (I've basically been forced into divorcing him (which, as a Catholic, is *not* a decision I took lightly and did not want to do because I believe in the sanctity of marriage, but he has permanently abandoned me) and have since discovered various things that mean that the marriage was likely never valid according to Church marriage law.) There are no children (which is fairly devastating, he and his new girlfriend both knew I really wanted them). Adjusting to being single again, essentially against my will, right before Covid happened, has been, and continues to be, a real struggle.

    I know I'm not spending much, if any, time on my faith, as I feel pretty distant from and abandoned by God these days, and Covid has dramatically exacerbated that. I'm still wary of venturing back to church (I have yet to do so) because the risk is still quite high and it's hard when the community is so family-centric and I've only heard from one friend from church since Covid forced the suspension of public religious services here in the UK last March.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting. I'm a list maker too and love the visual motivation of checking things off. I'm so sorry for the pain in your life and the ongoing isolation you are feeling.

  6. It brought tears to my eyes to hear in your writing how you are beginning to tenderly heal...Would love to sit down and have some conversations! But you showed me too, how much I am thankful for Tony's input, and encouragement about whether I should or should not take on obligations. Yes, tending toward performance-driven clouds my better judgement sometimes. I also rely on our children's emotional temperatures and input on how busy I allow myself to be.


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