On June 26, we welcomed our third baby into our family. On July 19, an empty moving truck arrived at our apartment. On July 21, the truck pulled away from our apartment filled with the things we wouldn’t need over the next couple of weeks. That same day, our remarkably full minivan pulled away from our life in St. Louis to begin a 3,800-mile road trip that took us across ten states and into Canada before we landed in Orchard Park, New York, where we would live the next year of our lives. If you are doing any sort of calculating right now, yes, that means we drove 3,800 miles with a baby who was not even one month old. Oh, and we camped. In a tent. We might be slightly crazy.
Prior to all of this craziness, I was very pregnant and very hot. Because St. Louis summers come early, last forever, and are not to be reckoned with. I was also feeling a little overwhelmed. (I wonder why?) I knew that the next few months contained a lot of big changes in a short amount of time, and I needed to be prepared. So I did what any typical type-A person would do. I pulled out my notepad and started writing. My lists went on for pages. Now usually a good to-do list is just the thing I need to motivate myself. But that particular morning, it made me want to sit down and cry. And then there it was: that still, small voice. A voice of reassurance in the midst of a sea of tasks. “First things first. Remember, first things first.”
“Of course,” I thought, “the next thing I need to do is make lunch.” Yet as I prepared lunch, my head and heart were not calm. But there it was again, “first things first.” Well, now I paid a bit more attention. These three words could be talking about my list of to-dos, but it turns out there was something more going on. It was a much-needed reminder about my priorities, my vocation, and Jesus’ greatest commandment.
In Matthew 22, a Pharisee asks Jesus, “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets’” (vv. 36–40). First things first. As I accomplish my tasks, am I loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind? Am I loving my husband and children and neighbors? These verses reminded me that even in the midst of overwhelming circumstances or tasks, my call to love doesn’t go away.
Last week, my husband walked in the door and promptly asked me how my day was. My reply was a fairly normal response for me: “It was good. I didn’t accomplish anything, but it was a good day around here.” His response? “Good. Because the most important thing you do around here is relationships.” I needed the reminder. Turns out I’ve needed that reminder a lot over these past four and a half months. And my guess is that I’m going to need it a lot more as the holidays, with all of their various tasks, approach.
It is often very easy for tasks to rule my days, especially in times of change and transition. In a way I hate to admit, it can be easy for me to not see past the tip of my own nose or list. I quickly forget about the two most important tasks I have each day. The most important thing we all do is relationships. Relationships with God and relationships with others. Today, my list is just as long as it was last summer, but this time, I’m putting first things first.