Letting Go of Expectations

Letting Go of Expectations @ AVirtuousWoman.org

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Life is a series of choices. Each day we wake up and choose to do what we do. Okay, so sometimes not everything that happens is within our ability to choose. No one chooses to have a flat tire or an overflowed toilet.

For a long time I was frustrated – and I’m not sure frustrated is a strong enough word – that my life was out of my control. It often seems like our family – because of extenuating circumstances beyond our control – moves from crisis to crisis. It’s one thing after another, after another.

We have a large extended family who often need my help or my husband’s help. And when I say often – I’m talking on a near daily basis. My husband and I are stable and able to take care of ourselves and others. We have family members who have struggled financially, who aren’t able to drive, who have major health problems, and more. And everyone of them 14 people to be exact} relies on us for something – and all those somethings require the one thing that is most important – our time.

Up until last year my husband and I were the sole caretakers for his 88 year old MIL, his 88 year old step father, his 87 year old Uncle, and his 61 year old brother who was terminally and mentally ill. Not one of these precious people could drive a car and everyone of them had doctor’s appointments – often two hours away on almost a weekly basis.

And every time Uncle Kenneth is home alone I would have to go and sit with him – 2 to 3 times a week for anywhere between 4 – 8 hours a day because he can’t be left alone.

Add on top of that two grown and married kids who live close to us who have struggled to  make ends meet and only have one car each. I am often responsible for driving the wives to doctor’s appointments or helping with other needs including babysitting grand kids a few times a week.

Add on top of that, the crisis after crisis that some unnamed family members have gone through – sometimes because of just plain bad luck and other times because of just poor choices – which required either my husband or I to help in some way – sometimes on a weekly basis.

Add on top of that the three churches my husband pastors… and the fact that I am a homeschooling mom with three horses, three dogs, and two cats {and numerous other animals over the years}. Add onto all of that – I’m responsible for maintaining the household chores, laundry, cooking, and day to day cleaning.

And then there’s A Virtuous Woman which I’ve been running since 2001 – that alone is just about a full time job!

Not to mention the fact that all of the holidays and any other special occasion is held at my house… and I cook for 20 family members on a regular basis.

I don’t think any of that description of my life really does it justice! I’m telling you – I’ve been exhausted caring for so many people for so many years with no real relief in sight.

Mykal’s brother died two years ago. And last year his step father passed away. Things changed a little since then. I no longer have to take care of his brother Steve’s medication daily. And Mykal no longer has to drive the two of them to doctor’s appointments each week among other things – and we think about them everyday. We miss them! But we are still soooo busy caring for everyone else.

So… maybe you’re wondering where I’m going with all of this.

About a year ago I began telling people I could no longer do certain things. And I’ve learned to say no to a lot. Not because I don’t want to help or that I don’t care – but my plate has been too full for too long. I went through some serious burn out. And I lost my joy.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s important when everything seems important.

One day last summer I got out my journal and I wrote down a list of boundaries. It was a detailed list. By writing that list I learned what was important to me and where I drew the line. You see, sometimes because I’m nice and I love people – I allow them to take advantage of me. It was a real problem.

I read an article last summer that changed my life. I can’t remember now where, but it said something to this effect:

People take advantage of us when we fail to tell the truth in love.

So for instance, maybe someone would ask me to do something, but I honestly did not have time, but because I’m nice and because I love these people, I would panic in my head, put a smile on my face, and agree.

What I should have done was lovingly explain that I honestly did not have time in my already overflowing schedule. Because by doing more and more and more – I just felt more stress and more unhappiness.

So, back to my point: Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s important when everything seems important.

So I had to make some decisions – what was really important to me. What was it God wanted me to do with my time?

I decided that my home, my husband, and my children were my top priorities. Everything else was secondary.

Now obviously, I still have a 89 year old MIL who has not been doing well at all over the last few months. I still have my husband’s uncle who needs care and I have to cook for everyday. And I still have grand kids who I have to babysit several times a week all day long so their parents can make some money – and they cannot afford a babysitter.

I still have kids I have to homeschool and a house I have to take care of. And really a million other things that come up on a weekly basis that need my attention.

But I say no when I need to. To whatever needs come up.

I give myself permission to have days where I do nothing more than snuggle in the bed with my kids or read a book when I feel I need rest. And I don’t feel guilty for resting.

And probably the biggest relief to me has been that I let go of my expectations. One of my biggest – and I mean this was HUGE – frustrations was that I homeschool and there was so much chaos – that I did not create – from other family members pulling on my time – that the last several years I could not have my kids on a schedule for school and we couldn’t get into a good routine.

I like routine. I really, really, like routine. It helps me plan and organize my day.

So, we would do school whenever we could find time during the day – often in the evenings. And it drove me crazy because in my mind that’s not what our homeschool {our life} was supposed to look like.

I wanted the perfect life and none of this stuff that was beyond my control fit into that ideal image.

Since I let go of my expectations – I’ve learned to live. Live fully in the moment. Embracing imperfection. Finding joy in the moment instead of the culminations of days, weeks, months, and years. I’ve been set free.

I’ve let go of the stress. Really, I’ve stopped trying to control things. I don’t stress over when we do school. We get it done – just not in a traditional way. I don’t stress over the house cleaning schedule because it eventually gets done – just to need doing again tomorrow. I don’t stress over grumpy days. I don’t stress over busy days.

At least most of the time.

I only have this one life. ONE LIFE. I don’t get a do over! So it’s my choice to live THIS LIFE full of joy in the moment.

Do you need to let go of expectations?



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Family Meals Around the Table {Day 28}

Family Meals Around the Table {how to do it and why they're important} @ AVirtuousWoman.org #mealtime

Family Meals are Important

In the picture above, my son had come home from college {he’s the one with the beard} and I can’t tell you how special it was to me to have all of my kids around the table at the same time!

There’s just something wonderful about sitting around the table, eating good food, and enjoying good conversation and laughter. It brings a family closer together.

Mealtimes don’t have to be elaborate to be special – although I love cooking big meals! Whatever you’re eating, whether it be oatmeal for breakfast, soup and sandwiches for lunch, or even spaghetti pie for supper, what’s important is that you are together.

For me, planning my menu each week really helps ensure that not only do I have a plan for what we’re eating, but we also are eating well balanced, healthy meals on a daily basis – even when we are gone from home all day.

10 Benefits of Family Dinners

We all know that most families are super busy and a lot of us have crazy schedules. But, eating on the run all the time isn’t healthy for the mind or body or the family. In fact, studies have shown that when families eat together around the table:

  • Everyone eats healthier meals.
  • Kids are less likely to become overweight or obese.
  • Kids more likely to stay away from cigarettes.
  • They’re less likely to drink alcohol.
  • They won’t likely try marijuana.
  • They’re less likely to use illicit drugs.
  • Friends won’t likely abuse prescription drugs.
  • School grades will be better.
  • You and your kids will talk more.
  • You’ll be more likely to hear about a serious problem.
  • Kids will feel like you’re proud of them.
  • There will be less stress and tension at home.

 Source: WebMD.com

10 Ways to Make Time for Meal Time

Since it’s so important to spend time around the table as a family, as moms we need to make it a priority. Here are some tips to help you find time to enjoy frequent meals together.

1. Simplify Your Schedule. – When you’re too busy, family time suffers. Sometimes we need to cut back on outside activities so that we can spend more time as a family.

2. Utilize your slow cooker on busy days. When I know I’m going to be gone for most of the day, I love to throw a quick meal together in the slow cooker. It only take a few minutes in the morning and supper is piping hot when we walk in the door!

3. Eat breakfast together if dinner time is hectic. If your teens are constantly on the go, why not make breakfast everyday a priority. If your family is usually still at home at 6:30 or 7:00 am, why not eat breakfast together everyday? You can even try using the slow cooker overnight and wake up to a hot breakfast!

4. Make it a priority. As a mom it’s okay to tell your kids they need to be home for supper.

5. Cook once, eat twice. Sometimes when I’m making a pan of enchiladas, a casserole, or one of our family favorites, I’ll double the recipe and have one for the freezer. Other times, I plan for leftovers for the next day. It saves time!

6. Insist that kids and teens eat with the family. Don’t let the kids scatter to their rooms or favorite place in the house as soon as they fix their plates.

7. Turn off the TV. Eating every meal in front of the television doesn’t build family relationships. It’s okay every now and then to have “dinner and a movie” but don’t do it every night!

8. Get everyone involved with the preparation and clean up. Assign kids dinner time chores from setting the table to fixing the salad to washing the dishes. Remember, families are a team and teams work together.

9. If you have to eat out, sit at a table together. Those when you aren’t home at mealtime and need to eat out, try to go in and sit together. Choose healthier options and talk to your kids about why certain foods are not the healthy choice.

10. Keep a picnic basket and blanket ready to go and add sandwiches, fruit, and water bottles for eating on the run at ball games or at the ice rink. On Wednesdays we head out early in the morning for a day at the ice rink. I like to pack our lunch and we sit together around a table and eat together.

Remember that meal time should be enjoyable so save stressful topics of conversation for other times. Keep things light and fun and laugh a lot! We want to create good memories around the table!

 Conversation Starters

Here’s a list of free printable conversation starters to help you:

How do you make meal time meaningful in your home?



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31 Days of Calm: The TO DO List {Day 24}

How to Use a To Do List, plus a free printable Weekly To Do List for your This is My Life Planner @ AVirtuousWoman.org #busymoms #proverbs31

31 Days of Calm in My Chaos

You’ll find a great free printable To Do List at the end of this post that coordinates with my “This is My Life” Planners! But first…

Tuesday, I shared with you how using a planner can reduce your stress. Today we’re talking TO DO Lists.

Obviously, if you’re using a planner – especially one like my “This is My Life” Planner  that includes a daily chore list – you’re probably already implementing the To Do List, and even if you haven’t been using a planner, you may already be using a written To Do List – or even an app on your phone to help you remember all those things you need to get done on a given day.

But how can you use a To Do List in the best possible way to get more done – and not feel stressed out at the end of the day?

Three Reasons Your To Do List Doesn’t Work

There are three reasons why your To Do List may not be working for you.

  1. Too many items to check off.
  2. You forget to look at your To Do List.
  3. Unrealistic items to check off on any given day.

How to Best Use a To Do List

A To Do List can be your best friend. It will help you stay focused each day and get more done – if you do it right.

  • Before you write anything down on your list, consider what you have going on that might make certain tasks harder. For instance, I babysit a couple of my grandkids all day long on a regular basis. Trying to load and stack hay is unrealistic if I have to take these two boys along with me.
  • Don’t try to do too many things in one hour. Often, getting one thing done in one hour is all you can expect to do. Especially if you are a stay at home mom – and even more so if you homeschool.
  • Remember, just like a planner only reduces your stress if you actually look at it and use it, a to do list isn’t going to help you if don’t refer back to it during the day.
  • Eat the Frog. If you get that one thing done that you really don’t want to do… the rest of your list will seem easy. Just get it out of the way. You’ll feel better.
  • Combine your errands so that you’re saving time and money. Try to limit your trips to town to one day a week.
  • Delegate chores. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to assign your kids chores on your To Do List. You don’t have to do it all to be an amazing mom. And sometimes it okay to ask your husband, too!

Of course, we all have days when things just don’t go as planned – and that’s okay. Life doesn’t have to always go as planned to still be spectacular. Believe me, I have more than my fair share of those days! Go ahead and embrace the season you are in. Be joyful in this moment.

Some of us DO work more efficiently than others. Creative types like me need space to breath in between to do’s. I often visit the Prudent Homemaker’s blog and she amazes me!

Really though, simplifying your life will ultimately mean simplifying your to do list. And ultimately, life shouldn’t be about doing more. Your life should be about creating rich and meaningful relationships and carving out a space in this world that will help nurture those relationships at home.

This last year, as I’ve worked to overcome my burnout, I’ve spent more time focusing on laughter, good food, hanging out with my kids and less time on having a perfect house and a superwoman to do list. In fact, my to do list is often on the small side. Did you see my simplified schedule in my This is My Life Planner video?

And you know what? I’m enjoying my life more.

Free Printable To Do List

I have a free weekly to do list to for you to download. This free printable coordinates perfectly with my “This is My Life” Planners available in the bookstore.

I designed this To Do List so that if you want to insert it into your planner, it has two pages front and back. But you can just use the first page if you like.

How to Use a To Do List, plus a free printable Weekly To Do List for your This is My Life Planner @ AVirtuousWoman.org #busymoms #proverbs31

How to Download

  1. Follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram if you can. Or Pinterest. Thanks!
  2. Download the .pdf file for the To Do This Week List here.

Today’s Goal: Decide if your To Do List is making your life easier or making you feel defeated at the end of the day.

Do you need to simplify your To Do List?



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