I always look forward to Wednesdays here in Oxford. It’s the day of the week we host our team for staff prayer. This week a local pastor joined us, and we went around my living room taking turns sharing how we could pray for each others’ spiritual and personal ministry goals.
Goals? I LOVE GOALS. I know that only God can truly produce spirituality and ministry, but I also know that we can at least press into Him and listen for what He might have for us. I am a terrible dreamer. But goals? First borns? We love them.
It’s actually been a while since I’ve gotten fired up about goals, but since December, I’ve been using a phenomenal life-planning resource called “Power Sheets”. They have been instrumental in transitioning from “surviving” to “thriving” as a wife, mom and missionary this year. Since I try to go over my goals first thing each day, when asked, I whipped out my Power Sheets and rambled off the spiritual and ministry goals I had for the year and then looked up to see 16 wide eyes.
Comments like, “I think I just suffocated” and “I am so overwhelmed right now” were uttered by my well-meaning,
fresh out of the frat house hilarious teammates. I can’t say I wasn’t embarrassed, but when Joel shared with the team that the entire atmosphere of our home life has changed for the better compared to our recent “season of blah” I was encouraged and reassured that even if I am a little tightly wired, it’s how God made me… and it’s how He is re-making us.
Tonight, I wanted to blog about what He’s been teaching me and how I think He is redeeming my “season of blah”. If at any point you feel like you’re going to suffocate simply hit the “X” at the upper right hand corner of the browser. :)
It was so freeing to write about the “season of blah” I experienced in 2013. Surprisingly, (and gratefully), for the most part, life has been night and day different. I was recently reading a little book called “How to Beat the Blahs” by Florence Littauer, who lost 3 children to a horrible syndrome and now shares her journey to joy with Jesus. Those 47 little pages helped me identify maybe some of the “why’s” behind and the “what now’s” following that season. She wrote this book at least 30 years ago so it’s pretty
politically incorrect blunt, but very helpful.
Here are some of my favorite quotes and questions for this to-the-point guide on battling blah: (Note: I don’t believe all these thoughts would necessarily apply to clinical chemical depression. The AACS has a great list of certified Christian Counselors if you find yourself in need.)
“She had obviously told her tale many times and seemed to take pride in her history of suffering.” (Do you really want help, or do you choose to suffer?)
“When we face depression openly, it will usually improve.” (What are you depressed about today? What are your alternatives to staying in the blah? Write them down and choose.)
“Justified depression is the worst type to overcome. When we can prove that ‘anyone would be depressed in my circumstances,’ there is little impetus to improve.”
“Maturity comes when we are able to accept our present position in life and adjust to our situation with gratitude. We need to praise the Lord anyhow!” (Are you drowning in self-pity thinking you are the ONLY person who has it “this bad” or “my case is special and different that anyone else’s? It may be a different cast on a different stage in different costumes, but the plot is the same. Something has gone wrong in our lives and we can’t stand it any longer.)
“Since the key problem in seasons of blah is an absorption with self, we have to get our eyes of ourselves. Humanly speaking this is close to impossible, for by the time we realize we are depressed the sky has falling in around us and we can’t see anything but ourselves and our problems. How could I go to the supermarket and smile at little boys in their mothers’ carts when I knew mine were dead? God and His Word! Romans 12:1-2, 1 Corinthians 10:13, James 1:2-4”
“When I began to realize I wasn’t alone in my problems, and that other people besides me had deep troubles, my pain began to ease. When I went further and saw I wasn’t alone because God was with me to lift my spirits, I was encouraged. I had sat too long alone. I had resisted friends and activities to sink silently into my own special sadness. Now I could know that God in His infinite wisdom had a plan for me and He does for you too.”
She writes, “Depression can give many people a unique opportunity. It may be their chance to redefine themselves and to resolve long-standing destructive conflicts within themselves” and I would say that is JUST what that season did for me.
I realize now how much more I needed to process (and probably see a therapist!) the grief of infertility, transitioning from just “Joel and me” to family life, and grieving the end of an era of full-time ministry on campus. None of these are monumental in comparison to many people’s stories, but all very pivotal in my personal life. I realize now how much spiritual codependency/responsibility I felt (and still can feel) for the women involved in our ministry in Columbia. I realized then, but more fully now, that it always was and always would be 100% God doing the work in their hearts…but, without realizing it, I lived under the heavy weight of my inability to function at the capacity I had pre-babies. Lack of time spent in His presence and lack of sleep took what God most likely intended to use to humble and refine me, and in my humanity I allowed it to hinder and even cripple me.
In preparation for your goal-making with Power Sheets, there is a lot of praying, journaling and brainstorming that is required. One of the prep sheets helps you identify any fears that are keeping you from going and doing all the things God has called you to do. I stared at the page and couldn’t seem to put my finger on any fears, just feelings of blah. And then it hit me. A strange fear. One I had never thought of, but one that has completely marked my life since becoming a mom. The fear of being tired.
See if this makes any sense. It sounds like, “I’m going to snooze my alarm again because I didn’t sleep much last night and if I get up now to spend time with You, God, there is no way I will have energy for the day ahead.” Or “I can’t possibly meet up with that person or have that play date or go work out or return that voice mail or whatever, because it might take it out of me.” Or “I can’t possibly serve one more person because, after all, I have been serving people all dang day and no one has seemed to notice or affirm any of it.” The unhealthy inner monologue could go on…(and it did and sometimes still does!)
What it comes down to is that I was/am afraid of being tired because being tired has clouded my existence as a mom and the miserable feeling has revealed meanness in my character (Real talk: I just had to pause typing and go to mommy time out because I came unglued over an incident involving scissors and a school uniform!) and desperate weakness in my productivity…thus further revealing that I am truly afraid of being a worthless failure because I base my worth and success on how well I perform and produce each day, and how well I maintain what I have produced instead of on how CHRIST has performed and maintained on my behalf and the never-ending worthiness found in Him.
So basically, on a simple 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper the Holy Spirit deeply revealed that my greatest felt fear is being tired and unproductive, at the root of which lies the fear of being a worthless failure.
This is a powerful and urgent fear in need of a fierce Spirit-led butt kicking. A.k.a., I must spend time soaking and studying God and His Word, then acting out of the overflow of that…thus producing God-given, God-inspired, God-motivated products.
Come to find out, after only a month of getting up and spending time alone with the Lord and trying to stay in constant communication with the Lord throughout the day, I have had more energy and joy than I’ve had in a year and a half. He is inflaming my heart and my days to live out what He’s called me to do. I have literally had to sit down to catch my breath from how energized these mornings and therefore days, spent in His presence, have been. (That, and my children are sleeping about 5 out of 7 nights a week these days and it.is.flipping.awesome. 2 out of 7 days I still feel like I was run over by a Mack truck, but there is hope.) What an incredible blessing to re-make and re-order my life as a wife, mom, and THEN a minister of the Gospel. It has brought so much more joy, peace and rest. Being an unknown outsider in a new city means I have had zero barriers to “resolve the long-standing destructive conflict” of trying to be 100% mom, 100% wife and 100% campus minister in 100% of my own effort.
With God’s help, I am saying “no” to the snooze button, 50/50 parenting, expecting pats on the back and accolades, judgement of myself and others, working on campus more than 1 day/week, anger, harsh words and facial expressions, exercising 5 days/week (not like I was doing this anyway!), an OCD clean house, gardening, sewing, Awana, multi-tasking away my time with my kids, checking the Bermuda Triangle of social media more than once in the morning and once at night, late nights and lazy mornings, whining and acting like a child, and feeling guilty because I am human. I want God’s fame and not my own. I want the deep soul satisfaction that comes with the legacy of “How great is my God” vs. “How great am I?”
What is this season for? Saying “yes” to Divine priorities ordered in my daily rituals and rhythms. Connecting to my own soul. Having a marriage that is thriving, intimate, fun and meaningful. Looking my people in the eyes. Making #hurdlepartyof4 a healthy, fun, laughter-filled, love-tank filling, memory-filled, Jesus-loving, therapeutic other-centered, grace-giving family of which to be a part. Missionally multiplying in my home, in the lives of former disciples, on campus, in Oxford, and online. Living and loving deeply. Letting our home be the spokes of a loving wheel that ministers to the world. Curating the sacred. Practicing His presence and being a living sacrifice!
So while some think that February is where New Year’s Resolutions go to die, I say, let’s be on our knees before the King surrendering and asking Him to do more than we could ask or imagine in our lives and by the power of the Spirit, kick the butt of circumstances, feelings or fears standing in the way of powerfully focusing and faithfully stewarding all that He has entrusted and inspired us to do… for His fame and for the love of and eternal destination of others.
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” Colossians 1:28-29 ESV
“Him we preach and proclaim, warning and admonishing everyone and instructing everyone in all wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God), that we may present every person mature (full-grown, fully initiated, complete, and perfect) in Christ (the Anointed One). For this I labor [unto weariness], striving with all the [superhuman energy which He so mightily enkindles and works within me.” Colossians 1:28-29 Amplified