Author’s note: I write this post to you with a sliver of trepidation and a big slice of humility, because it’s heavily nuanced and divided (even among Christians). And essentially, I loathe conflict. I’d rather write on topics no one disagrees with and that I only felt sheer confidence. Consider me just getting a conversation started.
The Dark Question
I feel God was actually somewhat clear about our decision to leave Africa. But I need to confess: Some part of me felt raw, then calloused–specifically connected to my femininity.
My heart was still squarely in Uganda, living out its technicolor dream. But collectively as a family, it was necessary for us to move back. And after all the years of setting dreams aside for the dream that is loving a family, I wondered why I seemed to hold in my hand the short straw.
Read an interesting quote yesterday. So tell me: Do you agree or disagree?
The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. (Frederick Buechner)
So at first glance, I’m like, Yes. Yes! Yes with a smiley-face-with-heart-eyes emoji! Especially when it comes to my kids (which you saw in Tuesday’s post on ideas for teaching kids the spiritual discipline of service). I want them to not just drag themselves through service, like our stick-shift doing 45 MPH in second gear. I long for them to find that burbling well inside of them: their part of the Body of Christ.
But then—I think, say, of young motherhood. Where initially, I couldn’t wait to see the double lines on that stick, couldn’t wait to pick out maternity clothes, couldn’t wait to gaze into a rosy little face that somehow looked a lot like mine. “Deep gladness” could definitely describe so many parts of motherhood.
Catch earlier posts here on Solitude, Prayer, Meditation and Contemplation, and Simplicity. Find initial concepts for this important series here.
Part of what I love about living in Africa: opportunities for my kids to serve are everywhere. As in, next door. I admit to being concerned about this when we landed in the U.S. six months ago. How was I going to draw a dotted line for my kids from compassion in Uganda to compassion in Colorado?
Awesome thing is, there are opportunities to serve–in really fun ways–in every zip code, from Salvation Army bell-ringers, to running a booth at the Fall Festival for the community, to the military family across the street whose dad’s deployed. Serving transforms our homes into aircraft carriers as its members are nurtured, then launched into the community.
The question often becomes how much we push our kids
into what they don’t want to do.
Why does it seem like everyone else my age is promoted, and I’m stuck in Gruntwork Land?
I should be married by now.
I am so. Tired. Of the little kid season. Why did I quit my job?
He started at the same time as I did. How did he get so much further ahead?
Who goes back to school at my age?
I had no idea w hat I gave up when I got married.
What was I thinking?
Everyone else has a baby.
Why in the world did I major in that? I jeopardized my entire career.
Ever feel like your season of life seems…off?
The idea bubbled up not long after my kids’ grandpa helped them each weave their own survival bracelets: eight feet of 500 paracord specially plaited and buckled around their wrists. The idea is that if you were in an emergency situation, you could use it, say, for a tent; a tourniquet; a climbing aid.
But even those neon colors couldn’t outshine the sparkle in my nine-year-old daughter’s eyes when she realized she could start a business with those little bracelets.
Her little business she started recently tumbled our family into a (lovely, really) domino effect of initiative, knowledge, community, work ethic, and perseverance. I love the dynamic it continues to create among my kids!
And I have to side with my friend Kristen Welch, on whose blog (We are THAT Family) I’m posting today, that there are direct implications to hard workers becoming less entitled. Hop on over and check out this post on giving our kids the gift of hard work–by helping them start a business!
Missed Part I? First, grab it here.
When you felt like you were finally surfacing from burnout–or as I called it, tired-mad, I might tell you what I found out. That sometimes burnout is simply burnout, because life is hard. And even though God never gives us more than He’ll give us strength to handle (He says so here and here), it still can feel like a rightful scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel, ta-da-I-survived type thing. (Whether it’s godly or not to be burned out is another post for another time, perhaps. But pretending it’s not there doesn’t really help.)
Questions that may help as you process burnout
- How have my responsibilities challenged me? How have they changed me?
- What activities “give me life” after I’ve helped someone?
- Who do I feel comfortable debriefing with?
- What questions do I find myself asking—and what lies am I tempted to believe (“I’m the only one who can help.” “I can’t afford to rest.” “Jesus wouldn’t say no here”)—when I am burdened by helping someone?
- In what Scriptures do I find hope and comfort when I am helping someone? (I like Isaiah 55:1-3.)
- (One of my favorites:) What would a compassionate friend say to me about this? (I often afford more compassion to others than I do to myself.)
- What sense of purpose and meaning do I find in my work? What do I love about what I do?
- What do I do when I am not handling stress well? What does the “stressed” version of me look like?
- What methods, people, and practices have helped me in the past?
- What do I think God thinks about my work?
- What questions do I have for God because of my work?
I glimpsed it in the slight tightness, the fatigued determination of her face that day: that distinct weariness that comes from herding toddlers and preschoolers 24/7. Having worn that particular look for approximately eight years myself, I know it well.
And though there are few exhaustions like young-mom exhaustion—I felt my own version of tired-mad that week. (Um. My family may have felt it, too.) One of my favorite takeaways from the movie Home were those hybrid-emotions, like sad-mad. Anger is a secondary emotion anyway, right? We feel angry usually because we were first hurt; afraid; grieved. Depleted, taken for granted; so very tired. So I have to plunge my fingers into my anger, exploring a bit.
By the time you read this, my family will likely have wrangled our carry-ons into that taupe-colored hum of a 757, bound for six months stateside. (After the lunacy of this week, preparing to abscond for six entire months, I surely hope we make it to the plane.)
I feel conflicted over this.
I’ve written before about this whole idea of our opportunities versus whether we’re actually called to do something. Oh—and about the true cost of my overcommitment.
And I’m happy to report that I have proudly mastered these concepts in full. And it seems I’ve still got a looooong. Long. Way. To go.
Long story short, this weekend found me sitting for 2.5 hours in the car with three kids—which is exactly as fun as it sounds—because of something to which I overcommitted in the first place. Before I left, I’d had to say no to seeing a friend for the last time before she left for two months; had to say no to a peaceful holiday with my family, despite my worn soul, due to my lack of foresight.
The funny thing, as I reflected in my consternation and yes, tears, is that I didn’t even think about saying no.
I’m amazed at how many Westerners respond to the question, “How’s life?” with, “Busy!” And I’ve gotta loop myself in there. Our spirituality ups the ante of our “opportunities”: Who wants to say no to something God might be putting in our paths?