I used to be an all or none type of person. Sometimes it was all work and no play, or all play and no work. There were consecutive days I spent time alone with Jesus praying and reading Scripture, and then other days I couldn’t focus on a single verse, let alone pray. There were weeks I exercised most days, followed by weeks of none.
The rhythms of life rose and fell based on my immediate circumstances, how I felt, and maybe my hormones. And that kind of living felt miserable. Life was a big juggling act and all of my time went to keeping things from hitting the floor. Learning how to manage the different facets of life I deemed important and not neglecting one for the sake of the other has been quite the learning process. By working through it with a little intentionality I’ve made some headway. Do I get tripped up every now and then? Sure. But it’s not a way of life anymore.
So, what changed? How did I move from a life characterized by instability to consistency? Well, I won’t claim to have it all figured out, but some things are more clear. I didn’t go through each of these steps intentionally on the front end, but looking back, they are what helped me get to the other side. If you find yourself in a place of instability I hope they help you too. You may not need to go through each of them as I did, but maybe one or two might help. Here was a little of my process.
- Let go. For a season I let everything come falling down around me, and this time I stopped trying to pick it back up. I let all of the expectations, all of the “supposed-to’s”, and all of the pressure come crashing down. I felt a lot of confusion and a lot of guilt, but for a season, (with the exception of my husband and kids), I backed away from everything.
- Question everything. I began to re-evaluated everything. No area was off limits; everything was questionable. Why was I writing? Why was I reading my Bible? Why was I watching Netflix?
- Make a decision. It’s at the point of decision we often get paralyzed, but the process of saying yes or no brings clarity. Jesus was an easy yes, my husband and kids were an easy yes, our church was an easy yes. Those are the things I care most about, and they rose to the top. But some were difficult to say no to- like leading a life group for a semester or volunteering at my kid’s school. For a season, I had to say no to a lot of good things. I said no to meal planning and to kid’s activities. Guilt tried to rear its ugly head, but when it did, I kept my focus on doing only what God clearly asked of me and what seemed reasonable.
- What matters most. I started seeing patterns in the types of things I said yes to and the things I said no to. The things I said yes to were usually tied to something I valued or something I was deeply passionate about. Those were easy to say yes. But what about two or three things I valued? How could I give the same energy to both? The short answer is, I couldn’t. I had to choose and I had to set some boundaries for myself. For example, I couldn’t give the same amount of weight to exercise as I did my time with Jesus. So whenever I evaluated that area- I gave it some parameters. Normally I don’t run before spending time with Jesus. Running is important, but I didn’t want it to be all-consuming, so I only run at certain times of the day to keep it in the right place in my life. Writing is important to me, but I don’t want it take over my job as full-time mom in this intense season of motherhood. Being a better writer at the expense of my kids wouldn’t make me feel good about writing at the end of the day. So I have boundaries for writing. Certain times and certain days are designated for writing. Identifying each of these help me know what really matters when I get overwhelmed. When life happens and I can’t write for a week, it’s okay. It’s not the most important thing in my life. And that’s probably a good thing.
- Freedom to make mistakes. I’m not going to get it all right. Some decisions I’ll get wrong, some days I’ll completely screw up. But you know what? It’s okay. It really is. Giving myself the grace and freedom to fail takes so much pressure off of me, and in a strange way, has actually helped me reach my goals more often. It makes me wonder if the stress of not dropping things can be greater than just letting things fall a time or two.
It’s taken me a while to get to the point that I can even write about this. God has been working in my life so much over the last five years about surrender and releasing my desires to Him. Part of getting there starts with letting go and not trying to control everything- especially the outcomes. I can only do so much and then I have to step back and ask God to fill in what I can’t.
What do you need to let go of today? Is there an area in your life you need to give boundaries? What is consuming your life? Are they the things you’re most passionate about? I would challenge you to evaluate those and let God reveal to you what matters most for you in the current season you’re in.