Plate Scraping 101

I loved reading all of your comments over the weekend.

Oh, how I wish we all could just drop all the balls we juggle in life for a long weekend and head to a beautiful retreat center together. We could relax, unwind, nap, renew and have NO responsibilities for the entire three days.

The center would serve yummy, but healthy, food all weekend with lots of dark chocolate and hot beverages available ’round the clock.

We could take our Bibles and notepads and Ipods (with music that helps us focus) and together we could help one another begin to scrape off our too-full plates.


Doesn’t that sound grand?

Well, since that pleasant fantasy trip can’t really be a reality right now, what else can you (and I!) do when we are carrying around these “about-ready-to-break-in-two” plates ?

Here are some steps that have helped me scrape my plate in the past (and now that I’ve taken on too much in my life again, the ones I am currently taking again this month).

~ Get alone.

Go away to a location where you can concentrate. A coffee house. A park (for you gals who live where it is still warm!) A room in your church. Switch houses with a friend for a day (you won’t be tempted to fold her laundry instead of focusing). Find a retreat center. (I visit one in Michigan for just $10 for a day) or if you can afford a hotel– go for it! (Or split the cost with a friend. You can have alone time part of the day and hang out the rest).

Take a Bible, something to write on and with, and one red, green and yellow crayon or marker. Bring along an Ipod with music or set of earplugs if you will be in a public place and get easily distracted.


Write out your current commitments, roles, responsibilities and other time-takers. Think through your home, job, church, kids, extended family, hobbies, etc….

~Prayerfully peruse.

Look at the list. Peruse it. (the definition of peruse is to “examine carefully and in detail; to scrutinize”) As you glance at each entry, ask yourself these questions,

Does it stress me when I think of this?

Does it energize and delight me?

Is this a non-negotiable (meaning I cannot stop doing it due to my being a mom, daughter, employee, etc)?

Is this a ‘keeper’ or a ‘got to go!’ item in my life?

~Go with your gut.

Come on, you know in your gut the things you’ve said yes to that you shouldn’t have. As mentioned last week, when asked to take on a commitment or responsibility we need to really ask ourselves, “Am I called?” Instead, what we often ask ourselves is, “Am I capable?”

Bad question.

We women are more than capable. We have the curse of capability. When our capability is our plumb line, we take on way too much.

~Think red, yellow and green.

Red tasks are areas that totally stress you out. You are not wired to do them. They give you no joy. They do not come easy. You could go the rest of your life without doing them and be just fine, thank-you-very-much!

Yellow tasks are those areas that you are able to do without a lot of difficulty, but are not your strongest suit. They don’t completely throw you for a loop, but they are not the ones that you simply love to do.

Green areas are those which we get excited about. They fit our personalities; they mesh with our work style and areas of giftedness. We look forward to doing them. We receive affirmation from others that we are good at them.

Just as at a stop light  green means go; yellow denotes caution and red screams stop!, our tasks are the same. When we are taking on too much red and yellow, it will frustrate us causing anxiety.

So now, take your three crayons or markers and circle each item with the appropriate color. What do you see?

More red than green? Mostly red and yellow? All green? (I’ve never met an all-green gal!) What does this tell you?

Of course we can get away from ALL red (duties in my life like certain household chores or waiting in carpool lines or being the one in the family who has to be on hold with the insurance company!!!) but we can be purposeful in limiting the amount of red and yellow and trying to operate instead in the green.

It is actually very biblical. Many sections of the New Testament speak of the different and specific spiritual gifts that are given to those who follow Christ that are to be performed in the church. (maybe we’ll chat about that someday)

~Write again.

Write down what you WISH your time commitments were. Notice what is missing from your first list. I’ll bet they most likely were circled in red and yellow!

~Make the hard calls.

You will have to call the shots and make the calls. Ask God to point out to you clearly what must go. Then, do it. We must get to the point where we care more about hearing from God and obeying than about being liked. (OUCH!)

I want you to realize that if you take seriously the notion of purging your schedule of unnecessary commitments and activities, there will be those who simply don’t understand. They will question and scowl. They will utter guilt inducing phrases like, “Gee, must be nice.” They will attempt to make you feel guilty or subtly assert that you aren’t somehow committed or faithful to the cause or even to God!

Stand firm in your resolve.

~Do be considerate.

Unless your health and/or sanity is at risk, you will need to follow through on your current commitments until a replacement is found. Or, at least give a few weeks/months notice before stepping down.

~Be honest.

Simply relay that God has been prompting you to re-evaluate your time commitments and to cut back on some things you were doing that now need to go. Don’t explain further. They will be looking for loopholes and ways to “help” you still  do the job. If you are brief, they’ll be less likely to do so.

~Don’t be afraid.

You can do this! Think of the freedom your experience and the extra time you’ll have!

~Craft a plan.

Speaking of extra time, when you are asked to take on a responsibility in the future, have a plan.

Don’t answer right away.

Pray first.

Consult God.

Consult the calendar.

And your spouse.

And the kiddos.

Think red, yellow and green.

Don’t let yourself get to this breaking point again (I AM TALKIN’ TO MYSELF HERE PEOPLE!!!!!!!)

Oh, and if you are going to commit to doing this, will you leave a short comment to let us know so we can be praying for each other! I’d also love to hear back from you about how it goes.

One more thing…..

CONGRATS TO:  kareng, timestamp Oct 29th at 4:33 p.m. You won the weekend giveaway! Send your home address to me at [email protected]

Plate-scraping Blessings,


  1. I am a newbie to your blog Karen and how timely it was to find. Thanks so much for these plate scraping insights. It’s Sunday now and just this past Friday a large part of date night was me whining to my hubby about being overcommitted, stressed out and so frustrated that I’d done it to myself yet again! (He just nodded he his head, recognizing way to well this cycle of mine.)It is encouraging to know that I am not alone in this dreaded disease and that there is hope! Thanks again and I pray to use your tips on clearing my plate and learning to live in the green rather than the red real soon. God bless and keep you.

  2. This plan has really struck a chord within me. So practical and wise – Spirit inspired! I can’t wait to plan a time away to implement it. Thank you for sharing with us and encouraging us to ‘scrape our plates’.

  3. Karen,

    This is FABULOUS!! You are so creative. What a wonderful way to sit at the feet of our Father and hear His voice speak to our hearts about how we steward the time He has given us. Thank you!!

    Love you,


  4. This is AWESOME!

    I am hoping to do this soon. I am a grandmother of 3 but am now a mother of an almost 13 year old as well. We took her as a favor to our friend, who was the jail chaplain where we lived in Fresno County. Now, that little new born is turning 13 in December, legally adopted her when she was 3 and I am home schooling her. It has been a real challenge to adjust my life. My husband and I are 65 and 69… It definitely is tough but a wonderful opportunity as well. She has kept us young. :)

    Your plan looks like something I can do so please be praying for me as I attempt to rid my life of the reds and fill it with more of the green and yellow.

    Thank You for the blessing of this email.

    In His Love and FOR HIM,


  5. Thank you so much! This is an awesome idea that I need to follow thru on. I will be doing this next week I hope. That is the earliest I can get away. Praying that God will open eyes to see the truth.

  6. I love all you said and I will find some alone time soon…Thank you for your insight…I will be praying for all of us to be open to God’s voice guiding us to what He wants for our life…

  7. I have really enjoyed your plate scraping series. I am in the process now of clearing my plate. This past week has been spent giving up something I didn’t want to have to give up but it had become a source of stress & frustration. The biggest reason I didn’t want to give it up was because I didn’t want to upset other people. I love your statement “We must get to the point where we care more about hearing from God and obeying than being liked.” That was a big OUCH, but very true. Pray for me as I obey God and clear my plate.

  8. I am going to work on being more intentional with how I spend my time. We are very busy, but I can do better with my time when I am really thinking about it. I don’t want to get distracted by the phone or computer or whatever. I would appreciate prayers on my “plan”.
    Thank you!

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