Every year, we have this reunion with the Coach’s side of the family, and last year, I brought plates that were WAY too small.
See, a large portion of my father-in-law’s side of the family are German Baptists, and these people are known for their wonderful cooking. Last year, I kind of forgot how awesome and plentiful the food would be, so I brought my typical 8 inch paper plate.
As my family and I walked through the line of fabulous food, I quickly realized that if I wanted to sample everything that looked good, I was going to have stack stuff pretty high. I looked over at those people who had the forethought to bring those big tray-like Styrofoam plates and felt a bit envious. It seemed so effortless for them.
As I went down the tables of food, I quickly realized that I was going to have to just pick my very favorite things because everything just wasn’t going to fit on my plate.
When I went up for dessert, everything looked SO awesome that I stacked brownies on top of pies, and topped it all off with cookies teetering precariously.
Now, I am not the most graceful person under the best of circumstances, and wouldn’t you know, that before I got back to the table, my cookies had toppled off. In the process of trying to catch the cookies, my other desserts almost slid off the plate, too. I only just righted my plate in time!
Why am I bringing up a reunion that happened in the summer? Well, as I was thinking about this particular post, it hit me that life is a lot like going through a reunion potluck. How much you can put on your plate is determined, in part, by how big the plate is. Sure, you can try to cram more stuff on that fits, but usually that ends in some of it ending up on the floor. Or worse, everything is so smushed together, you end up not being able to taste the individual dishes with all their flavors. The boundaries of what you can fit is determined by the parameters of your plate.
In our lives, we each have a figurative plate that can be filled with dreams and aspirations and goals and projects. The thing is, only so many things can fit on that plate.
If we try to cram too much on, we end up with things dripping off the sides, or we can’t really fully enjoy anything on our plate because it is all mixed up together. Or worse, everything can end up sliding off onto the floor and making a big mess.
No matter how productive or organized I am, the parameters of my life circumstances dictate how much I can take on and still keep my sanity. The same is true in your life, too.
Unless we fully accept the size plate we’ve been handed in this life, we’re destined to keep overfilling it and not even being able to enjoy the best things.
Not only do we need to accept the size of our plates, we also have to realize that the size of our plates change as we go through life. If you have babies or toddlers or both, your plate is probably smaller than the mom whose kids are in college. If you are taking care of school aged kids and aging parents, then you aren’t going to have as big a plate as your single friend. It can be really hard when we transition from one sized plate in life to another. We often find ourselves trying to cram in what used to fit, only to find everything overflowing.
We can greatly reduce the amount of stress in our lives and cut back on the crazy busyness if we just accept the plate we’ve been given at this particular time.
If yours feels a bit small for all that you dream about and want to do, be encouraged. Plate sizes change throughout life. My plate is considerably bigger now that my boys are teenagers than it was when they were tiny and constantly needed me for the basics.
Not only does your season of life affect your plate size, but individual things do also. If you are the type that needs a lot of sleep, you might have a slightly smaller plate than your friend who is bright-eyed with only 6 hours of a sleep a night.
I have a friend who has chronic health problems. She is bright and talented and a really wonderful person, but sometimes for days, weeks or months at a time, just getting out of bed and getting dressed is an achievement. She really struggled with this for a while because she was a doer. It felt somehow like it was her fault that she was sidelined when she wanted to be going. When she finally accepted that this was the plate she’d been given, it took a big burden off her shoulders. She could see things to enjoy and be grateful for because she wasn’t always feeling defeated by what she couldn’t do anymore.
She has learned to give her energy first to what is most important to her. Even though I don’t have a chronic illness, I’ve learned a lot from her example. How many times do I waste time and energy on things that aren’t really important to me, my family or my calling.
How many times do I fill in my plate with the mediocre pie when I could be using that valuable space for triple chocolate cheesecake?
Have you accepted the plate you’ve been handed in this season of your life? What things are taking up valuable real estate on your plate that need to be scraped off to make room for the best stuff? I’d love to hear about it!