Fall brings the excitement of a new school year, fun holidays, and reunions with friends.
As great as all this sounds, it can be tainted with a flood of overwhelm. Shopping for school supplies, costumes, and turkeys when combined with a super-sized schedule of games, meets, and concerts can leave our summer energy quickly depleted.
Grumbling can creep into our daily routine, as exhaustion enters and restoration departs. It steals our joy and reshapes our minds, blinding us to the good that still abounds all around us.
But there is something simple we can do to combat our griping. We can push out our negative thoughts and replace them with gratitude. Giving thanks can take place in a crowded carpool line or at a game. Better still, gratitude sends signals of reward to our depleted brains. Dopamine floods our weary minds, a chemical that gives us a mini-energy boost, lifting us out of our complaints.
What are you grateful for today?
The time it takes for a simple praise might just be the gift you need to make it through the day.
If we’re honest, when we hear the word “responsibility,” we sigh about the impossible length of our to do list, how tired we are, and how we’ll never get it all done. Our days can be long and time always seems short.
But what if we viewed our daily mundane duties as gifts and opportunities? As Ann Voskamp so beautifully puts it, they’re response-abilities. The opportunity to respond and the ability to make a difference. The ability to help, serve, care for, and react to the needs of others. A source of heart connection. An act of love in the name of Christ.
What if we viewed our responsibilities as gifts and opportunities? As the opportunity to respond and the ability to make a difference. @allison_wixted
When we appreciate our abilities, gratitude moves center-stage. We’re more thankful for things our minds and bodies can do and our hearts beat in rhythm with his grace. We cherish our hands that can wash dishes, load laundry, and prepare meals. Our feet that drive and chase children out of the street. Our minds that make the decision to move our hands and feet even when they’re weary.
Sometimes it takes a loss of ability to fully value our daily responsibilities. An injury, a job loss, or simply aging can jolt us back to gratitude for our former obligations. When we find the need for others to do what we once could, it can leave our servant hearts longing for past abilities taken for granted.
What response-ability are you thankful to be able to take on today?
Are you in need of rescue? Feeling neglected ashore of the life you wished for? Seeking a life preserver from the life you’ve let fall apart?
Friends, I often find myself longing for help too. Life has tossed me a time or two, and the residual liquid that jumps up and chokes my lungs without notice can wear on my resolve.
So what are we to do as we hold back the tears of our hurting hearts?
Sometimes chips look really tempting. Or scanning our credit cards. Or clicking on Netflix.
But each time I reach for one of these empty idols, I remember that I have more to gain from going to Him than stuffing my mouth, my wardrobe, or my mind with distraction. That the hole I feel was meant for Him to fill.
That when I’m in need, He will strengthen and help me (Isaiah 41:10).
That He stands ready to offer us hope in the face of fear. (Jeremiah 29:11).
That He is our ever present help when trouble strikes (Psalm 46:1).
Christ is all the help we will ever need, anywhere, any time, and under any circumstances. Let’s let Him in and drop the chips, friends.
Are you feeling worn out and weary in your middle age? Frustrated with the monotony of your quotidian rhythms? Longing for something more exciting than laundry, dishes and teen chauffeuring?
I’m with you friend. The daily “making of the donuts” can weigh us down when we’re grinding through mid-life. There’s a tension between the youth culture our society worships and the whisper of retirement. A gratitude for our own youth experienced while a frustration with the new weight around our middles. A sorrow for the body that once leapt with ease that now languishes when deprived of extra sleep. The longing for less responsibility to make margin for our own needs, but gratitude for a full life sandwiched between the younger and older ones in our lives. A discontent with less time to rewrite our stories, while grateful for more still.
While we might not be on stages or podiums, we are the ones building the podiums and making magic happen behind the scenes. We shape the lives of our littles, guiding them each day to make safe and wise choices that will help them lead lives closer to Christ. Lives that will help them lead the way forward when their middles are squishier like ours.
And Christ sees us. He sees the dirty dishes we dug out of our choking sinks, the diapers changed, the dinners made. He sees the hoops jumped through to watch games, the sleep lost to make costumes, the hours spent on selfless sacrifices.
And He agrees. He agrees with our sacrifices since they’re ones He would make Himself. He would do the servant’s jobs that no one sees or wants. He washed His friends’ filthy feet. And He took it to the next level as He starved in the desert, was arrested, beaten, burdened with the weighty walk of the cross, and allowed His flesh to be pierced with fatal nails.
Our daily woes pale in comparison to His incomparable sacrifices. They illuminate the importance of the humble middle-aged mama work we slug through each day. As you clean yet another teen-or-toddler-made mess, think on Christ’s humble cleansing of his friend’s feet on the night He knew His earthly body would be broken soon. As you lament another meal to make, consider Christ’s ravenous days in the desert. As you feel trapped in a body declining daily, lean on the gratitude that it can breathe unlike Christ as He languished on the cross.
So, my middle-aged warriors, although our stories on earth are half-way written, there’s so much more good to be reaped. Let’s infuse gratitude into each day for our gifts still retained and yet to gain. And let’s strive to see our lives though Christ’s lens, not a worldly one that would have us rewind. A lens that lifts up servants who sacrifice for one another.
He applauds you in following His servant heart’s lead.
How are you feeling about our post-pandemic world? Are you half-happy and half-stressed? Struggling to release the restorative rest of quarantine, while relieved to move forward into the distraction of pseudo-normalcy?
Honestly, it has been a bit of a bumpy ride for me, friends. The tension between under-stimulation and over-stimulation is real. But what I’m finding is that hidden under all my angst about the seismic shift in our daily lives, there are saplings of significant growth.
The pain and strain we survived made us raw. It stripped away the veneer we usually wear with the world to reveal our most primal desires, needs, and wants. At the time, it may have felt like a root canal with a blunt butter knife, but looking back, we’re able to see the seeds of progress…
The tears we cried turned into advocacy and action.
The anxiety we felt channeled into innovation.
The deprivation we despised transformed into greater gratitude.
The obstacles we overcame became opportunities.
Opportunities to see ourselves and our lives more clearly. To view relationships and kindness as essential, not just add-ons in our busy lives. But most importantly, to seek our Creator as our constant True North, not simply a safe haven on Sunday mornings. To let Him seep into the searing pain and bind our souls’ wounds as we mourned lives lost, schools closed, and events cancelled.
To remind us that when we are weak, we are strong. That in that moment, we were meek, but still blessed. That when the world threatened harm, God meant it for good.
And there it is. God’s promise to be our light in the darkness and transform what human eyes often see as hurdles, distractions, pain, and obstacles into a glorious gift filled with goodness and love. And for that, I am forever grateful to the One above.
How often do you find yourself snared in the comparison trap? Am I thin enough? Productive enough? Smart enough? Kind enough? Faithful enough?
I’ve found myself there more than a few times, friend. And I’m guessing that you have too based on the “Be Better than the Joneses” soundtrack that plays on many of our screens 24-7.
Comparison leaks into almost every part of our daily lives. Commercials tout quick fixes for our faults. Our neighbors’ newest addition makes us question our worth. Our children are measured at school and on the athletic field.
I’m not saying that all comparison is a bad thing. Sometimes it can motivate us to do great things in Christ’s name. If we see someone in need and we’re more fortunate, that comparison can lead to acts of love if we allow it to catapult us into helpful action.
That said, we do need to make an honest effort to prevent comparison from ruling our lives, choices, and felt worth. When we covet things like our neighbor’s possessions, looks, and accomplishments to the point of diminished self worth, it’s likely time to seek release from the comparison trap. At that point, we’re diminishing the value of Christ’s creation: us.
Plus, finding our feet caught in an unhealthy comparison trap can bring bigger problems if we allow the wounds it inflicts to infect us with things like exhaustion, poor health, and a bad attitude. These are all consequences that might just dim Christ’s light in us and slow our sanctification.
Perhaps to follow His lead, we might breathe as He did? His quick rest away from adoring crowds demonstrated that our earthly minds and bodies require rest to give their best to others. Time to connect with the Father and regain perspective. Time to replace comparison-gone-rouge and replace it with Christ-who-is-always-right.
Time to run your own race (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Not her race or his, but yours.
Your race, authored by the Master of the Universe, Chief Star-Scatterer, and Lord of Your Life.
So friend, before you count yourself out in the comparison game, see yourself through His lens and love your life’s custom lane.
Your crooked smile? Christ-crafted with care.
Your stutter? Made in Heaven.
Your smaller-than-the-next home? Provided by the One above.
Friend, let’s make space to breathe, reconnect, and let Christ release us from harmful comparison. Ask Him to infuse His perfect love in and let go of lesser things! I’ll be right there beside you inviting Him to set us all free!
Are you struggling with overwhelm? I’m definitely in it with you, friend!
I’ve noticed a growing number of us struggle to keep up with the blistering pace of modern life. Technology has blessed us with convenience, but cursed us with hurried hearts. And combined with pandemic overload, we’re all swimming in a sea of sharks ready to attack our peace on a moment’s notice!
One way we can prevent overwhelm is by creating boundaries. We can set boundaries with our time or with family and friends. Are you missing sticky notes from your paper planner or snapping at family and friends frequently? That might mean it’s time to set some boundaries in your life.
“But how?” you ask.
Admittedly, it isn’t easy. When we set boundaries to protect ourselves, sometimes they encroach on or offend those around us. But that’s when we have to rely on God’s leading to help us navigate that inevitable tension.
He taught us that boundaries keep us safe and protect us from harm. He is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5). As branches, to thrive and produce fruit, we must be pruned to prevent overgrowth, disease, and death. We are also dependent on Him for our sustenance, as water and nutrients can only reach the branches via the vine.
So, for us to thrive and survive, we are meant to be cut back. Likewise, as Christ’s image-bearers, we are meant to mirror His example and prune our own lives. Clipping our calendar commitments might actually be an act of worship. Saying “no” to another invitation might be God’s whisper to spend more time with Him. Not responding right away to that text could give you time to pray about your response and better mirror His love.
When the pushback to our limits comes from the loud world around us and even some well-intentioned people we love, if we put Christ first, we’ll find that standing firm is worth any temporary pain. If we cling to His life-giving love, perhaps we’ll see that the boundaries others might deride actually bring us closer to our Source, our Creator, and our Guide. And friend, that’s a cure for overwhelm we can trust every time, everyday.
Hi Friends! Thought I would share this little nugget from my instagram microblog with y’all today! I hope it helps heal your heart and brightens your day! If you like quick reads, feel free to follow me on instagram for more!
If we’re honest, growth is forged through trials. And trials are definitely not my jam. I’d rather run from the pain they produce than dig in my heels and persevere.
But our trials prove purposeful if we pivot from our present pain to the future strength we’ll gain…
Hi friends and faithful readers! Yes, I’ve been gone for quite a while, but the pandemic has inspired me to get back to writing again! I’d love the chance to encourage you during these tumultuous times if you’ll join me.
And what better way to kick-start my blogging return than to share some exciting news JUST FOR YOU?!
Drumroll… I’m doing a GIVE-AWAY!
But first, here’s a little about it…
Do you suffer from “hurry sickness?” Treat your soul to the brand new book, Growing Slow: Lessons on Un-Hurrying Your Heart from an Accidental Farm Girl by Jennifer Dukes Lee! With her unique grace, humor, and warmth, she shares her personal struggle with a life hustled to exhaustion, but rescued by living fresh perspectives rooted in faith. Through Scripture, her “growing slow” life on an Iowa farm, and poignant personal stories, she takes you by the hand and guides you toward peace. This book will give you the tools you need to BREATHE in a harried world where hurry reigns. I pray it heals your heart as much as it has mine!
Thoughts careen off the corners of my mind faster than I can capture them. What do I need to do tomorrow? What do the kids need from me? What is urgent and not? What is my husband’s schedule? What help do I need from my parents? What’s priority for work?
As I pull the covers up tightly, I beg God to stop my thought barrage so I can catch some much-needed sleep. To place me in His sweet embrace so sleep will soothe my shredded mind.
Does this happen to you too? Your day is done, yet your mind is mulling. You long for sleep, yet your thoughts flail aimlessly like the tentacles of an angry octopus…
This is when I try to seek God’s whispers of self care. To obey His call to rest and slow my pace. I ask my in-dwelling Holy Spirit to cover me with calm and patience so I can care for myself and others in a way that honors Him. I don’t always succeed, but when I do, it opens the door to great gifts!
The beauty of complying with this call is the fruit patience produces. Invite patience – this beautiful fruit of the spirt – into your life. Allow God’s timing to rule over the world’s. Even better – patience can produce another fruit of the spirit: peace. (Galatians 5:22)
You’ll be amazed at what can happen once patience, and then peace, prune back your excess thoughts and the anxiety that accompanies them.
Here are five ways I’ve found patience can produce peace…
1. Inner peace – Inviting patience to preside over our lives produces an inner peace. It reminds us to take a breath when we feel anxiety and “rush-mode” coming on. To slow our thoughts and capture one at a time. To recognize that multi-tasking is actually a myth, as science shows our brains can truly only tackle one task well at a time. To forgive ourselves for forgetting the five thoughts that wandered into the wilderness of our minds.
2. Peace with others – When we are more patient with ourselves, we become more patient with others. We realize that the same thoughts racing an Indy 500 through our minds are running through everyone’s minds! That we all are desperately trying to catch up with our thoughts and that some just happen to escape the holding pin of our imperfectly human minds! That we all can be a little kinder and gentler with each other, knowing the battle we all face inside.
3. Clarity of thought – When we recognize our minds are treadmilling, our hearts are racing, and our breath is beyond its normal pace, it‘s God’s invitation to slow our thoughts, capture one at a time, and seek God’s grace to catch the ones that most honor Him, while leaving the others behind for now. Once our minds, hearts and breathing have slowed with God’s help, we find that He has provided us with a beautiful white space on which we can create His masterpiece. We enter a highway of thought motivated by His way, light and truth. One that is unfettered by the ways of this world but infused with the gifts God has for us.
4. Ability to hear God’s voice – Once we’ve accepted the call to clarity of thought in line with Christ’s, we’ve course-corrected our soul’s steering wheels, and we’re ready to ride alongside God. Clearing the clutter of our minds allows us easier access to our indwelling Holy Spirit, where we can curl up and let Him guide us down His path. Down a path where His voice shines brighter than any worldly worries coming our way.
5. Focus on eternal peace – When God’s voice is the loudest one in our minds, we’re sure to win. With His guidance at the helm of your heart, your guaranteed destination is Success Lane. Not success as the world would see it – but better – success that will lead us down the path to eternal peace. To a place beyond our wildest dreams where all the hurt, pain, and tears of this world are gone forever. Where peace abounds and love presides. Where hearts connect and divisions disappear. Where ultimate peace and patience reign.
Christ invites us to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matthew 28) I’m in! Want to join me as we invite Him in to pace our race? Let’s embrace patience so we can seek His incomparable peace!
Make a comment on this blog post or on any of my social media and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Into the Deep: Diving into a Life of Courageous Faith by my super sweet friend, Lauren Gaskill. The winner will be notified by Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Good luck!
About this powerful and restorative book: Be prepared to be inspired, moved, and empowered by Lauren’s message! She leads us through her real life faith struggles with unabashed honesty, humor and warmth. From times when she professed to have less than a mustard seed of faith to learning to fully embrace Christ with steadfast courage, she offers empathy, inspiration, scripture, and practical steps to deepen our faith walks so we can live out the courageous faith our hearts desperately need and desire!
Lauren’s ministry: Learn more about Lauren’s exciting work as the founder and President of the nationwide ministry, She Found Joy! I’m honored to have been invited to work alongside her and the talented She Found Joy team! We invite you to join us for one of our Ladies Night Out events where Lauren and her ministry team provide a special evening of worship, food, fun and fellowship! See you there as we cross the country to a city near you! In the meantime, tune in to our weekly Podcasts and get all the latest She Found Joy updates by visiting our Facebook Page!
“You’re going to have an ulcer by the time you’re 20.”
Across the pitted black lab bench, my favorite seventh grade science teacher lovingly declared my future downfall. With wounded heart, the little perfectionist in me continued to white out three lines at a time and re-draw blue binder paper lines with a ruler. I remember thinking, Why would anyone do anything without the intent of a perfect outcome?!
Over thirty years later, life’s storms have tossed me enough to know that perfection is an illusion, but I still fall into the trap of seeking it. As an Enneagram 3 – The Achiever – when I stress, I strive. I’m blinded with an overwhelming need to control. And worse, I’m deluded into thinking that I can actually control everything around me. I turn up free will to max volume and think that God must be on vacation today. I forget that He is beyond my understanding and that multi-tasking takes on new heights on His watch!
How about you? Do you post a “Kick Me” sticky on your own backside when you do a drive-thru dinner for your kids? Or maybe you internalize the voice of a boss, parent, friend, or loved one who always said you weren’t enough? Or you punish yourself for how messy your home has become even though life crises have crushed you for months?
I think we can all agree that this type of thinking sends us down a slippery slope to a place where insecurity, pride, and competition reign and relationships wither. Insecurity is at the heart of perfectionism. Feeling inadequate feeds our need to be recognized. We convince ourselves that striving for perfection will earn us the fame we seek. Pride also fuels perfectionism. It’s our human way of pretending we are God and believing the lie that we are fully in control of our destiny. And competition, while it can be a healthy motivator when viewed properly, can be an insidious beast when we ditch connection and compassion at the expense of winning. Bottom line, perfectionism flouts scripture and sets us against God’s Word.
And this is where I raise the flag of IMperfection in all its glory. I know, you’re looking at me sideways with a crinkled forehead! But just try embracing it instead of fighting it every now and then. It might feel REALLY wrong at first, but eventually, you’ll see God’s truths shining through your initial frustration. Instead of flogging yourself for going through the drive-thru for your kids’ dinner, say “I made sure that my children were fed tonight, despite a crazy day.” Instead of believing your boss’s cruel criticism of your year-long project, say “I really did try my best and I know that there were also good things about my work.”
Eventually, you’ll realize that imperfection is actually the gateway to God’s grace. The place where He meets you in your pain and suffering and lifts your eyes heavenward. Where he reminds you that He is the only One who can fill the hole in your soul you tired to fill with perfectionism. Where He says to you, “You will never be perfect on this earth. But when you’re frustrated with your shortcomings, come to me and I will be your comfort.”
Now, I’m not saying that we should all just give ourselves over to mediocrity and poor work ethics. Rather, instead of striving for an unattainable perfection, we work toward excellence. In Holley Gerth’s book You’re Loved No Matter What: Freeing Your Heart from the Need to Be Perfect, she explains that on earth, perfection isn’t realistic or healthy, but rather, “excellence is doing what you can, with what you have, where you are, as you are. It means given your circumstances, your limitations, your abilities, and other factors, you’ve done what you can to do well.”
By trading in perfectionism for excellence, we actually trade up in our up-side-down Kingdom. Christ longs to send our suffering souls a life vest. He is clearly on the side of the imperfect…
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
At the end of the day, Christ is the only One who is perfect. He is the only One truly in control. When perfectionism attacks, we believe our free will trumps Christ’s sovereignty. Then we skip into the enemy’s territory. Into a wasteland that will leave us treadmilling toward soul exhaustion. Toward a never-ending finish line that continues to stretch into the hazy distance as our weary souls stagger toward nothingness.
While we’re on earth, we are being perfected – becoming more like Christ – but we’ll never be fully perfected until we’re called to our heavenly home (Philippians 1:6). Perfectionism will only divide us from the deep relationship that Christ seeks with us and strangle our relationships with one another. It says“I’m better than you. I’m determined to win. You’re not enough.” And in return, Christ says,“You are all equally loved. You are all my beautiful and unique children. You’re always enough for me.”
Make a comment on this blog post or on any of my social media and you’ll be entered to win a copy of the freshly-released Freedom!: The Gutsy Pursuit of Breakthrough and the Life Beyond It by Jennifer Renee Watson.The winner will be notified by Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Good luck!
About this empowering and encouraging book: Jennifer’s words will move women to shake off the shackles of their pasts to live in the true freedom only Christ can provide. With her trademark and self-professed “sweet and snarky” Southern-girl style, she tackles tough issues with just enough humor to help us toward healing, while still honoring our pain. This book is a true gift to a tired girl’s soul!
I have an aversion to mess. It curls my toenails. It gives me heartburn. I snap my eyes shut to “mess making” commercials because they tempt me to hurl myself into the TV and say “STOP – DON’T DO IT!”
So for this girl who was voted “Most Organized” in her graduate school class, I’m seriously struggling with my new mess. What does it look like? A bird’s eye view would reveal my serious health issues with a side of special needs parenting on steroids. In short, I’m a tad stressed in my mess.
I know we all have mess. I know life only gets messier, but for me, the messier it gets, the more frustrated I get. I want my life to be like checking off clean, neat boxes on an online form. No blurry edges, no smears – both aesthetically pleasing and efficient.
Newsflash to self: “Life isn’t that way!” Perhaps I was spoiled by a relatively “mess free” beginning to my life? Maybe it set an expectation that life should always be a walk down Perfection Lane?
Perhaps you remember that moment when your life changed from clean screen boxes to messy streaks and struggles? Maybe your struggles started early in life? Maybe your struggles are behind you but leave their impression on the pages of your memory? Maybe they never end and stain your daily life, bleeding off the page of your sanity?
I’ve been quiet over the last year and a half. My life has honestly been more overwhelming than I care to share. Even now, I struggle to write this. I stress over what to share and not. The thought of hurting anyone in my life by sharing this doubles my soul over in pain. I wonder whether you’ll think me indulgent in my distress or see something of yourself in my struggle. I wonder if you’ll think I use the word “struggle” too much! I can’t decide how much to share because I’m still trying to process my new reality, and I fear your opinion of whether I’m handling it all well or not. With everything I do, I consider whether it will cause me more pain. I run like a mad woman from anything that might cause me an ounce more pain! I know, I’m a “pain chicken!”
All that stress aside, I think I’m supposed to share my mess. For selfish reasons, I think it helps me heal. But what I love most is that sharing my mess invites you to face yours with me. And when we face our mess, we can find our way to freedom in Christ.
Although I am wrestling with Christ and my faith now in a BIG way, one thing I know is that each time I return to Him, He is always there for me with loving hands of forgiveness. Even after all the offensive questions I’ve asked Him lately! I forget His gifts constantly, and try to strive without Him, but each time, I run out of gas. I find myself in a heaping pile of tears and self loathing, because only He is enough to take on my pain and my mess.
So, I’m trying to hand my mess over to Him. Want to try with me? Let’s try not to forget that He is always there for us, even when we have sought solace in life’s pleasures to seal off our hurting hearts and His love.
He can handle our mess. Even better, He molds it into a beautiful sculpture of hope that strengthens our souls. Please help us all remember this when we sink into suffering and self indulgence threatens to steal us from His embrace! That is my prayer for you, me and us all today!
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5