The Can't Evens

Ah, those pesky “can’t-evens.” You know, the state we attain when we’re overwhelmed and declare defeat. You were up with the baby last night and now you can’t-even homeschool today. Not any of it. Not even reading a Bible passage. Or you completed all your chores for the day and now you can’t-even make it to Bible study this evening because you can’t-even deal with all those people who enjoy your presence and want to talk to and hang out with you. Or you’ve worked hard this week and you can’t-even spend time with your family because you just… can’t even.

    And don’t even get you started on Christmas. Between gifts for your household, gifts for your extended family, all the food you’re going to have to cook, all the running around the country you’re going to have to do, and dealing with those people in your family who think you’re a freak for being a Christian (let alone a Christian in a Bible-believing church that does what a Bible-believing church should do)... You want to wave your can’t-even flag already, and it’s not even December yet.

    Some of us catch the can’t-evens more easily than others. Have you noticed? It doesn’t seem to correlate directly with personality type. “Introverts” and “Extraverts” seem to suffer from the can’t-evens in similar proportions. It also doesn’t correlate directly with the number of kids you have because there are single ladies who lament over their can’t-evens at the same rate as moms with a few kids hanging off of them. So what causes the can’t-evens? Can they be overcome, or are they a complete mystery to be accepted as the lot in life of some and an unfamiliar burden to others?

    Well, let’s think about this for a minute. Can you think of anyone who never gave in to the can’t-evens? Here’s a hint: just give the basic Sunday-school answer. It’s Jesus. Look at the Gospels. He had ample opportunity to declare, “I. CAN’T. EVEN!” and turn invisible and take a day off. But he didn’t. Pastor Joseph recently brought out in a sermon that (in Matthew 14) Jesus had boarded a boat to go be by himself, probably tired from all his work among the crowds of people, definitely deserving of some respite, but then when the people followed him, he kept taking care of them, even going so far as to teach and feed thousands of people at one time. So let’s think about why, if he’d been tempted by the can’t-evens, he was able to resist the temptation.

The Bible says Jesus had compassion on those crowds. In his book Concise Theology, J.I. Packer says, “Love will always ask whether more can be done to please, and more neighbor-love, more service of other’s needs, will always be a major part of the answer” (p. 186). How often is that our attitude? No matter the reasons for our temptation to the can’t-evens, welcoming the “one more thing” and facing it with joy rather than despising it and tackling it begrudgingly will greatly help us on our mission to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

With that attitude in place, here are some practical and applicable tips on how to get over the can’t-evens in time for Christmas--and Thanksgiving too!

             If you’ve read any of our blog posts so far, you probably know what the first tip is. Pray. It’s such a simple exhortation yet the duty we most often forget. Any time you’re tempted to get angry or bitter, to give up, to feel overwhelmed, to melt down, pray. And pray again. Pray for the right attitude. Pray for patience.  Pray for perseverance. And along the same lines, talk to your husband (or your parents if you’re not married). Ask his advice and expectations. God gave him to you to lead you.

    Now let’s think about a few instances in which we find ourselves unable to “even.” Imagine you’re behind on homeschooling. You’re overwhelmed because not only do you have to catch up, you also have to miss out on fellowship opportunities in order to do the catching up. Why were you behind on school work in the first place? Maybe you had a lot to do over the weekend and had to put the house back together on Monday, which put you behind on school work for the rest of the week. If this happens often, you may just need to reorganize your cleaning and school schedules.Thus, better organization is tip number two. Get help with this. And if you’re not a homeschooling mom, determine if something similar applies to you. 
    Were you behind on school work because the kids have been sick for a week and you just couldn’t bring yourself to push through all the normal work? First of all, good for you. By giving the kids (and yourself) a break due to difficult circumstances, you’re already showing there are instances in which you are capable of rolling with the punches. Apply that same concept to being “behind” on school work. Do you really have to catch up? Do you have to complete every assignment you missed? Probably not. Figure out what you really need to do and skip the rest. 

Alternatively, just pick up where you left off. You went to school. Did you ever complete an entire textbook during grade school? It’s okay. The kids don’t have to know and do everything. Prioritizing and adapting are tip number three. Again, this tip applies to everyone, not just homeschooling moms. And remember not to neglect fellowship with other believers. It’s worth the effort even if you’re feeling “behind” (but, on the other hand, don’t fall into the trap of always prioritizing play over academics). Who knows? Maybe your friends or family can provide a different perspective on your situation.

    Let’s think of another scenario. It’s Thanksgiving morning, you’re scrambling to make the pumpkin pie and green bean casserole you promised your grandma you would make, and you’re kicking yourself for telling the kids they could watch that stupid parade (or for watching it yourself). You don’t even know what anyone is going to wear, and you need to leave in an hour and a half. Hit the brakes. What happened here? Why wasn’t any of this done ahead of time? Is this a pit of temporary despair you often find yourself in? Better preparation is tip number four. It might seem trite or cheesy, but MAKE. LISTS. Make lists for everything, and start making them sooner than you think is necessary. Add to and take away from them as needed, and use them to make appropriate preparations for everything.

    Along the same lines, make sure you’re working hard every day. A lot of can’t-evens can be avoided by diligence in the right things.

    How about this one? It’s just an ordinary day, but you haven’t been able to get around to washing the dishes all day (or cleaning your room for a week). It looks like a nightmare. You’re tempted not just to blame yourself but to get upset when there’s really no blame to be placed and no good reason to break down over what’s really quite a simple thing. For situations like these there are two tips. The first is: Be Thankful. Find ways to be thankful in all circumstances. Thank God for the family and food that made those dirty dishes, your hands that are able to wash them, and the cabinets you put the clean dishes in. The second tip for this situation is: Just Do It. Keep going. It’s a thing to be done. God will give you what you need to get through it. Add cheerfulness, not complaining.

    Here’s another scene, this one a little more specific. You’re up from sunup to sundown. If you could drive and use the bathroom standing up, you would. You actually put off going to the bathroom because it takes time out of your doing-stuff. Sometimes you show up late to things because you had to, haaad tooooo, get another thing done before you left the house. You’re snapping at people all day because they aren’t working as hard as you are, and if they say “What should we do?” your answer is, “Use your eyes!” 

Okay. In fairness to you, we are supposed to work hard and do it regularly. But we’re also supposed to work heartily as unto the Lord. Does this scenario sound like someone working as unto the Lord? Someone in this situation would do well to remember for whom she is working. Is she really trying to serve God and serve others, or is she really serving her own pride and preferences? Think of Martha (Luke 10). She actually had the opportunity to fellowship and listen to Jesus himself and was prioritizing her work instead, not trusting that Jesus would take care of whatever was needed. It’s clear from this story that work, even for good reasons, is not the most important thing we do.

A “Martha” needs to concentrate more on servant-mindedness and contentment. Servant-mindedness will aid her in applying herself to the right priorities (loving God and neighbor), and contentment will help her not to get upset when everything isn’t going the way she thinks it ought to go. She will realize God is in control, and she won’t feel like the world is ending when her plans are knocked askew (or, in some cases, totally obliterated). Contentment is quite freeing.

There’s one thing we haven’t mentioned specifically so far that is very important and is sort of an umbrella over most of the rest of these tips. That thing is: Trust God, and by extension, Trust Your Husband (or your parents if you’re not married yet). Think back to the first scenario. Is it your fault your kids were sick for a week? No. You can’t be a helicopter mom making sure your kids get all the elderberries and never lick the floor at the grocery store. Even helicopter moms’ kids get sick anyway. The sickness was God’s providence. Losing your mind trying to catch up on school or despairing and thinking maybe you just won’t do school this year shows a lack of faith in God. 

And how many times have you made your plans and thought they were just perfect only to tell your husband, whose plans (though they were actually just as good as yours) completely knock the wind out of your sails? Having a bad attitude shows a lack of trust in your husband, whom God gave you. God works through your husband just like he works through you. Remember that.

    To conclude, let’s go back over these tips. Before applying these, though, remember that we need to cultivate an attitude of love and compassion. If we don’t do that, none of these tips will do any good.
  1. Pray.
  2. Get help getting organized.
  3. Prioritize and adapt. 
  4. Make lists and prepare.
  5. Work hard every day.
  6. Be thankful.
  7. Just do it.
  8. Be servant-minded.
  9. Be content. (Read Nancy Wilson’s book Learning Contentment for some really good ways to live a life of contentment.)
  10. Trust God.
  11. Trust your husband (or your parents).

    Start practicing all these today, and pray through this list, and you’ll find your holidays quite enjoyable. 

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