When you are drowning, it’s absolutely time to cut back

It’s an interesting season for me.  Our family has been in the middle of some personal trials.  I’m experienced enough to know these things come in waves.  We won’t arrive at a point in life where we are exempt from hardships of some sort.  God is gracious to give us both respites and endurance.

I have a history of expecting a lot of myself.  Can you relate?  In my 20s and through my life as a young mom in my 30s, I tended to way (way) overestimate the number of tasks I could manage while simultaneously underestimating the amount of time it would take me to do them.  I also rarely, if ever, asked for help.  Like a stubborn two-year-old, I would say, “I will do this myself.”  That was a Molotov cocktail for burnout.

Daily Manna

Maybe age brought wisdom.  Certainly spending years studying intentional living and reclaiming my time for what matters most have added to my ability to sense when I’m in too deep and need to step back.  Still, it can take me time to admit my need or even recognize it.

During this season of grief and uncertainty, I’ve been praying a lot.  Yes, I already pray daily.  Somehow when the fires get hotter, I’m on my knees longer.  I wake each morning with my hands literally cupped, first thing.  I ask God for the manna He has for me in that day.  I stand like the beggar I am, clad in my pjs, trusting Him to give me just what I need for that day alone.  He does.  Invariably, as I turn to my Bible and devotions, or through an unexpected text from a friend, or on someone’s Instagram post, or wherever He sees fit to feed me, I receive.

photo by hearts homeward

It is manna because it is enough for that day.  I must seek Him again each morning.  About a year or so ago I found myself exercising another daily habit.  As my head hit the pillow, I would softly say, “Thank you.”  This happened spontaneously, like a child muttering, “I love you, Mommy,” as their drowsy lids close for the night.  My thank you bubbled up and felt just right. 

Simple Gratitude

I didn’t purpose to say thank you daily, as my younger, overly-ambitious self would have done.  I just rested in the fact that I could thank God at the end of a day no matter what had transpired.  I found myself uttering gratitude nightly and it has become a heart habit of its own volition.  I can’t fully convey the perspective I gain from those two small words capping off every single day.  I have hard days and upside-down days.  I experience bliss and stress.  No matter what combination the day contained, I whisper my private prayer of thanks.

photo courtesy of darren bockman

So, we’ve been sputtering through this trial, held together by God’s grace, but bleeding internally from all the emotional highs and lows.  At times it has been excruciating.  Other moments are surreally calm and normal.  Through this season, God made it clear that He wants me to continue writing and speaking.  One day during a morning when I was sitting with God, I had a clear idea He was telling me not to set aside my calling to wait for the chaos and difficulty to pass.  He impressed upon me that I would have to be patient and flexible, but if I followed Him, I could continue to do what He was putting in front of me.

Slow Down, Mama!

I wrote a novella-sized non-fiction book in the fall and early winter called, “Parenting Your Teen Through Chaos and Crisis.”  All that while parenting our teen through some chaos and even a bit of crisis.   I have continued to faithfully blog weekly here at Hearts Homeward.  God gave me the vision to write another book: “Slow Down, Mama!” and to craft an accompanying course, and develop coaching sessions as well.  I have been pouring my efforts into this combo project for about a month and a half now in hopes to finish it this summer.

My cover design (in process)

Meanwhile, life in our circumstances can be alternating between draining, traumatic and “normal” (whatever that is!).  These past three weeks I just stopped writing on the blog.  It wasn’t intentional.  I simply pulled back one week and decided not to push myself to write.  The next week came and I realized writing a post would be asking too much.  Just this past week the same thing happened.  Through this experience, I gleaned something for you.  

We sometimes live as though the world needs us desperately.  What will happen if we don’t show up, choose not to contribute, or even simply take a break?  Well, I’ll tell you what.  Usually, not much.  Now, if you are the speaker at a graduation and you don’t show, that could be, um, awkward.  Still, those kids will graduate.  Life will go on. 

What Matters Most

More importantly, if your children or your husband need you and you aren’t present for them, well now, that’s a thing.  You are the only mom they have and the only wife that man has (let’s hope).  We need our breaks from motherhood, but no one quite fills the gaps when we are not present for the needs of our family.  

Most other obligations aren’t so life-shattering.  I would bet dollars to donuts that you didn’t sit at your computer or phone scrolling your inbox awaiting news of my next blog post.  Sure, you may be happy when you see it (thanks for that), but you aren’t pining away.  As a matter of fact, truth be told, you probably didn’t give me a second thought.

All I want to emphasize here is that while we are vitally important to those very near to us, we aren’t as much of a key figure to those who are on the fringes of our lives.  Knowing this should free you up a bit.  Perspective always does that.  So, when you are drowning, grab a hold of whatever keeps you afloat and take some time off.  Step back.  Be renewed.  Then enter the mainstream and share whatever God gives you during your time away – like I’m doing today.  

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  • Reply
    Lana Leigh Wilkens
    May 28, 2018 at 4:17 PM

    This was so great Patty. It is a big deal to be honest with myself that I need to be available for those who truly depend on me. I have to admit that the online world and anyone who I might call my “audience” or “tribe” probably isn’t waiting on the edge of their seats to hear from me. Truly humbling…

    • Reply
      May 28, 2018 at 5:19 PM

      Thanks, Lana. It’s so freeing when we realize that we aren’t the hinge pin. Then we can be appropriately engaged where we are called. I was talking to a fellow blogger earlier this year and she mentioned how she was stressing about getting her weekly post out by the deadline. I remember feeling that way for years as I started blogging. I gently mentioned that she was probably the only one aware of her deadline. We both laughed. She put it off a few days. The earth stayed on axis and the moon didn’t turn to blood or anything horrific. You know? It’s so good when we get that view of ourselves – the one where we know we are both crucial and slightly insignificant.

  • Reply
    May 28, 2018 at 8:05 PM

    I’ve been in shut down mode for a while. I haven’t blogged in over a month and I don’t see a return any time soon. I don’t believe I am supposed to lay it down completely; I just really need encouragement, refocus and to find my purpose in it again. You always share such wisdom. Thank you.

    • Reply
      May 29, 2018 at 8:35 AM

      Sweet Barbie, You are so faithful. You have been such a blessing to me in my blogging journey. There were times in my early years of this where you spent extra effort guiding me towards new templates, coding explanations and simply encouraged my heart. I have taken long stretches away and my heart was the better for it. When I returned, I was refreshed, my “why” was clearer and people came back to read what I wrote. Give yourself the grace you so easily extend to others. I’m praying for you today – especially that you would remember what you know so well: To come to Him when you are weary and heavy laden so He can give you rest for your soul. Much love.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2018 at 9:16 AM

    I love this, Patty. It is such a great reminder and one I need on a daily basis. Thank you for your wisdom and encouragement. I am praying for you as you walk through this season and as you work to completely your next project. I know God is using you in mighty ways!

    • Reply
      May 29, 2018 at 11:50 AM

      Thanks, Dawn. God is sweet to include us to accomplish His great plans and His reach into others’ lives. I’m so grateful this touched your heart today. Much love.

  • Reply
    May 31, 2018 at 9:34 AM

    I so identify with this. I have had to learn to live from a place of rest. I would work myself to death otherwise.

    • Reply
      June 1, 2018 at 9:08 AM

      One of my favorite sermons on this was given by Tim Keller. He spoke on working from a place of rest. When we put rest first, we cultivate a heart of restfulness within us. From that still place, knowing we are able to withdraw, that we aren’t the hinge pin, that we will rest again and again, we can go into work with a healthy perspective. I don’t live this perfectly, of course. I’m continually growing towards it. I’m so glad you brought this up by saying, “living form a place of rest.” Beautiful!!

  • Reply
    May 31, 2018 at 11:58 AM

    So true! I exhausted myself to the point of burnout this year because I thought I was indespensible! Guess what broke when I fell apart? Just me. Everything else carried on fine! Now to remember that lesson to cut back before crisis hits and trust God’s grace is bigger than any to do list!

    • Reply
      June 1, 2018 at 9:02 AM

      Kirsten, yes! I’m so so sorry you went through this, but grateful for the wisdom you are taking from the experience. It’s so hard to learn we can let go. We aren’t central. That sounds obvious, maybe even diminishing. We are essential in some places. It’s important to figure those out and give our C+ effort, or a plain, old-fashioned, “no” to most other things. I sure relate to what you shared here and am grateful to you for popping by and letting me know this resonated with you.

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