For people in small churches everywhere … written especially for women
If you feel like it’s just never enough, you may be surprised what happens when you quit trying so hard.
If that seems like Opposite World, it kind of is. That’s pretty consistent with the God we serve.
- Be weak to be strong.
- Be last to be first.
- Turn the other cheek.
- Believe in what you cannot see.
God Himself, The King of the Universe, incarnate in a helpless baby … it doesn’t get much more opposite than that!
So, please hang in there with me.
The Secrets of Living Soul-Satisfied are found in Opposite World!
QUIT TRYING SO HARD
“…. Maybe you should stop. Just STOP. Stop trying, you know? It’s exhausting.”
The quote above is from the movie, The Family Stone. An uptight, very-accomplished, super-talented Meredith spends Christmas with her boyfriend’s laid-back family.
After an upsetting family dinner, Meredith drives off, crashes the car, and gets this unexpected piece of wisdom.
“Quit trying so hard.”
In the final scene, one year later, Meredith appears transformed. Relaxed. Smiling. Serene. Happy. Fulfilled.
She learned to quit trying so hard.
Women serving in churches often need this lesson. We fill our days well.
- Working jobs
- Teaching Sunday School
- Running 5 Ks
- Raising kids
- Caretaking parents
- Leading Bible Studies
- Volunteering at VBS
- Dropping off meals
And we still feel like it’s not enough!
We are in a rhythm of striving and failing. And the harder we try, the emptier we feel.
Our quest to be better disciples, better moms, better selves, better wives, and better friends sets us running on an ever-spinning hamster wheel.
We can’t figure out how to safely jump off. And we fear what would happen if we did.
Women especially are Heart-driven. Heart-motivated. Heart-hurt. And there’s only so much Heart to go around.
Our multi-tasking, achievement-based world puts our Hearts at risk.
- Burn-out & Depression
- Emptiness & Strained Relationships
- Failure & Exhaustion
All common side effects from our constant running.
This is not God’s desire.
- He wants us to be whole, not ragged
- Focused, not divided
- Fulfilled, not empty
Take a risk with me and jump off the hamster wheel.
I invite you not just to read, but to ponder, absorb, and experience the four sections that follow.
- Get Rid of the Red Cape: Wonder Woman is Just a Cartoon
- Quit Trying So Hard: Stop Running and Start Sailing
- Put First Things First: You will Never Finish your To-do List
- Keep Hagar in Mind: You are Not “Subject To” Appraisal
GET RID OF THE RED CAPE: WONDER WOMAN IS JUST A CARTOON
I read an article proposing that parenting doesn’t matter as much as we think. It explained that children are born with genetic presets to being resilient, or not.
Basically, a child with resiliency is gonna make it even with crappy parents. And a child without resiliency is not going to be successful even if their parents do everything right.
Part of me was offended and defensive.
I have worked way too hard as a parent to hear it really doesn’t matter that much.
However, a bigger part of me was so relieved.
Because as hard as I try, I mess up constantly. The pressure of being responsible for growing human hearts is immense.
Whether the parenting article is entirely correct or just a piece of a larger puzzle, I’m grateful that my kids’ fate isn’t entirely determined by me. It would be hopeless if it was. I make way too many mistakes.
The truth is I’m not Wonder Woman. Neither are you.
She doesn’t exist. I can wear a Red Cape if I want to look ridiculous. But I have no power to stop a speeding bus. Or derail a meteor headed toward the earth.
My friend died of brain cancer at 46. He left a wife and two daughters. He is very missed.
Another friend of mine was removed from life support, unbelievably, two separate times. She was the energizer bunny who just kept going. Until she couldn’t.
Tragedy happens. Sickness comes. People are mean. Natural disasters hit. Abuse occurs.
This is the reality of our lives. The sun shines. And the storms come. We don’t control either.
We deceive ourselves with an illusion of control.
Thinking we have power to control the outcome of our kids’ lives. Power to throw a perfect wedding. Power to change a heart. Power to predict tomorrow.
It often takes tragedy and hurt to give up the Red Cape. It took me almost 50 years to get rid of mine.
I still find myself grabbing for it now and then.
But getting rid of your cape doesn’t mean resigning to hopelessness.
It just means acknowledging the God who really has the Red Cape.
He is All-powerful. All-knowing. All-loving. All-present.
Even when it is beyond my understanding. He holds it all.
Your Red Cape gets in the way of seeing His.
Lay it down. Leave the results to God. Because you can’t control them anyway.
QUIT TRYING SO HARD: STOP RUNNING AND START SAILING
The other day I talked with my friend Becky about life. Hopes. Frustrations. What we’re learning. Where we’re struggling.
I found myself referring again to the movie I mentioned above. “Maybe instead of all those goals, you need to try less. This year I’m focusing on being faithful. And NOT trying so hard.”
I could almost see Becky’s puzzled expression through the phone. What does that mean? To be faithful, but not try so hard?
It means I’m going to stop running and learn how to sail.
Have you ever been sailing?
People who sail love the feeling of being on the water. Being carried by the waves.
I imagine a woman in a navy striped shirt, sitting in a boat, reclining a little. Her perfectly layered hair blowing in the breeze. Head tilted just a little, angling her face toward the rays of the sun.
The boat steadily heads to a destination.
Powered by the wind and the waves.
Then there’s The Runner
Crossing the line of the marathon. Amazing strength and perseverance.
Her legs buckling and shaking in effort and accomplishment. Embodying the discipline it took even to qualify for the race. Her mental strength pushing through every obstacle.
The person who runs and perseveres earns my respect and even my awe.
The Difference Between the Sailor and the Runner
The sailor and the runner both get where they’re going. Both are diligent and skilled. They learn their craft. They study. They work hard. They persevere. But there’s a difference.
The runner earns the prize solely by her own effort. She carried herself across the line.
She’s the one who trained. Her discipline. Her sweat. Her power. No one else can take the credit.
Sailing takes a lot of skill and discipline too. But the power of the boat? That’s up to the wind and the waves.
There’s no way around it. The sailor cares for the boat. Sets the Sails. Tacks. Ties Knots. Turns the Rudder. Watches the Weather.
The final outcome though? Not up to the sailor. She may control the sails. Shift directions. Influence the speed. But nothing happens without the wind and the waves.
I think this is the difference between Being Faithful and Trying.
God is the Wind and the Waves
We need to trust Him if we’re even gonna get on the boat. But once we are there, we’re carried by the water. Faithful in what we know to do. Embracing the smallness of our own power.
Because we have Him. The Wind. And the Waves.
The storms come. The sun shines. The waves pick up.
The sailor knows all she can do is Watch. Learn. Adjust. Cling. Enjoy. Trust. Be faithful in taking care of the boat.
Let God be the wind and the waves.
Let His current do its work. Tilt your head back in the rays of the sun. Acknowledge your powerlessness in the wake of His.
I’m done running. I want to learn to sail.
I memorized Colossians 3:23 when I was 22 years old. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your HEART, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
At the time, I guess I thought my slave driver was now God. I didn’t really process that God may be looking for something different than my definition of hard work.
But I’ve gotten to know my Boss better.
Working for the Lord doesn’t mean driving yourself to Exhaustion. Frustration. Or Burn-Out.
If you know Our Boss, you know His power. He doesn’t tire.
He doesn’t need your sweat. Or your agonized trying. In fact, that’s the opposite of what He wants.
Your Boss wants you to Abide in Him. To Love. To Trust. To Praise.
Our Boss calls us friends. Not slaves.
If you’d like to join a community of people in small churches, check out our facebook group, Solutions & Support for Small Churches.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: YOU WILL NEVER FINISH YOUR TO DO LIST
Let’s get practical.
Getting rid of your Red Cape and resting in God’s power doesn’t obliterate your to-do list.
- We still have stuff to accomplish
- People counting on us
- Work to do
The sailor doesn’t just get to flip her hair back and sun herself ALL day long. She still needs to be faithful and do the job of taking care of the boat.
A business consultant told me years ago, you will never finish your to-list.
It is impossible. Every time you check something off, more things are added. Because of this it should never be your goal.
That was wise counsel.
If your goal is to finish your list, you can sink in defeat right now.
Or, choose a different goal!
To get off the hamster wheel you don’t need to finish your to-do list. You just need to get a handle on your First Things.
First Things First
Most have heard the phrase “Put First Things First.”
Surprisingly, we don’t usually need help defining what our First Things are. Most people already know them. And we feel guilty for not doing them.
First Things are ever important. But almost never urgent. So they get shoved down our list.
Bringing Your First Things to the top of the list will change your life.
They will snuff out that “never-enough” feeling at the end of your long days.
Take just 5 minutes now and grab a sheet of paper.
Make a list of what is really important to you. Write down all the things you can think of that, if you actually did them, you know would change your life.
There are no right answers. Don’t evaluate. Just write. Set your timer. 5 minutes. Go.
You probably now have a list of dozens of really important things!
Next step: streamline your list.
Which ones are the most important? Make your list smaller. Cut out some more. There can only be a few First Things. Be brutal with your list until you are down to 3-5.
These are your First Things.
I’m not suggesting these are the ONLY things you do in a day, but they need to be First. Do them daily and watch your other to-dos fall in line, or even fall off your list altogether.
Here are my 4 First Things. If I do nothing but these, I still get a Job-Well-Done feeling at the end of a day.
I am Soul-Satisfied.
FIRST THING #1: Put My Life Before God
I begin with a Morning Intention that starts the dominoes of my day falling in the right direction.
My morning intention, one God-word for the day, is followed by more God-time. Maybe some Bible study. Devotional Reading. Prayer. Journaling. And/or Quiet Meditation.
CLICK HERE FOR A STEP-BY-STEP MORNING INTENTION PLAN >> Your Morning Matters.
My time frame varies. The tools vary. Seasons may take a new twist.
But my morning consistently starts with acknowledging a Great Big God. A Very Fallen Me. A heart set to learn and listen. And an intention to carry His light through my day.
FIRST THING #2: Take Care of the Ashram
When my house is not in order, I am disheveled. I can’t find my shoes. My fridge is bare. I imagine the words WASH ME written in dust on my end table.
I know environment matters. But boy do I avoid cleaning. And grocery shopping. And meal planning.
My heart toward my home changed when I embraced the phrase, “Take care of the Ashram.”
An ashram is a religious retreat. A holy place.
I want my home to be a religious retreat. A place where people find Peace. Love. Joy. Hope. Relationship.
Cleaning my house? Well that’s a total drag. But taking care of the Ashram? For some reason, that shifts something in my heart.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dancing with my mop every day!
But the thought of it doesn’t strike me with the same drudgery anymore. I desire my house to be ready. Ready for what?
For whatever the day holds.
FIRST THING #3: Be a Light
We are called to influence others for Christ. This isn’t optional.
When the Bible says “love your neighbor” it isn’t exclusive to those living next door. Neighbor simply implies proximity. Who are you around today?
I strive to initiate kindness in the grocery store. To light up when my kids walk in the room. To shine some positivity in the schools where I work. To help my husband. To drive lawfully and responsibly.
I have a coffee mug that reads, “It’s a Beautiful Day to be Charming and Agreeable!” I carry that mug on days I don’t feel so agreeable.
It takes energy. But it’s not optional.
Because it is one of my First Things.
FIRST THING #4: Get My Steps In
I’m a bit averse to exercise. The word itself brings images of sweat and feelings of dread to my soul.
But, getting my steps in? That’s kind of fun.
My Fitbit rewards me with a party on my wrist when I hit my daily goal.
I eat better when I move more. My mood lifts when I walk daily.
If I don’t move enough? I feel like a slug. All droopy and gray. I can’t live life well if I don’t feel well.
And … After My FIRST THINGS?
Apart from these things, I have many waking hours to man the sailboat.
Just like you, I have Lists. Goals. Spreadsheets. Life Dreams. But these four First Things change my mindset and boost my productivity and my peace.
They keep me grounded.
Regardless of how the rest of my day pans out …
- I know I placed myself before my God
- I took care of the Ashram
- I loved my neighbors
- And I got my steps in
This makes it a good day for me.
If this is new to you, putting First Thing First might be a challenge. Figure out how to prioritize them. Where they fit in your already-busy life.
Because after they become habit, you will love the benefit of Living Soul-Satisfied. Give yourself some grace in the process.
KEEP HAGAR IN MIND: YOU ARE NOT ‘SUBJECT TO’ APPRAISAL
A woman named Hagar got a bad deal in the Bible (and not just her unattractive name).
Here’s the short version: Her slave master, Sarah, can’t get pregnant. Sarah decides that Hagar is going to carry her husband’s child for her. She orders Hagar to sleep with Abraham.
Hagar gets pregnant and has a baby boy.
Lo and behold, Sarah gets pregnant herself and now she hates Hagar. (the ancient soap opera unfolds)
Jealousy rules and Sarah wants no competition for her son. The drama hits a climax when Hagar and Baby Boy Ishmael are sent away.
Back in the day, “sent away” didn’t mean they found a hotel or a new job.
They are Abandoned. Unprotected. Thrown out in a Desert.
Destitute and dehydrated, Hagar lays Baby Ishmael under a bush and gets ready to die.
God swoops in and says, “I see you.”
He saves the day.
He blesses Hagar and all her descendants.
Do you ever just feel like no one sees you? I mean really “sees” you. Understands. Knows. Deeply Cares.
God Sees You
I’m sure of it.
He knows you, because He created you. And you are never as alone as you may feel.
We have seasons like Hagar. Desperate. Defeated. Defiled. Discarded.
But just like Hagar, you are not out of God’s sight.
Your value is not in your production.
Not in your possessions.
Not in your progress.
You are not “Subject to” Appraisal
If you ever bought a house you may have heard that phrase. If a house is “Subject To” appraisal, the value of the house goes up as improvements are made. Not so with you.
Your Value Rests in the Truth that God Created You
Simple and unchanging.
I don’t know much about art, but I do know that anything painted by Picasso has value. And lots of it.
A canvas could look like a toddler scribbled on it but, if it is verified to be Picasso’s, it is of incredible worth.
The value isn’t in the paint or the design.
The value is in its creator.
And God’s signature is on You.
You can do nothing to lessen your value. You also can do nothing to increase it.
Your worth is set high because the Creator of the Universe crafted you.
He breathed His very breath into you. He loves you. He wants you. He accepts you. Right now. And always.
WE ARE HIS
As followers of Jesus, we are not God’s workhorses. We are simply HIS.
While most of this website is dedicated to resources, ideas, tips, and how-to’s in ministry, this section is dedicated to our Hearts.
John 15 says, “Abide in me, and I will abide in you… You can do nothing apart from me.”
Let’s take our plans and productivity and set them aside.
Remember the 2 Secrets: Do Less. And Quit Trying So Hard.
Let God be the Wind and the Waves.
And simply ABIDE.
FOR MORE, CHECK THESE OUT:
A Pastor’s Wife’s Journey Through Depression. A Pastor’s Wife shares her story of Clinical Depression. Many Christian Women live with depression, feeling alone and unseen. Let’s learn to walk together.
Dealing with Difficult People: Keeping Your Cool with Angry People. If there’s anything predictable in life, this is one: you can’t avoid Difficult People! Learn How to Keep Your Cool with Angry People based on God’s Truth.