I have always loved competition. Sports, board games, card games, races, grades, twister, thumb war- anything that could deem me as winner and someone else as loser. If it was something that I could win and be better at than someone else, I wanted a part of it. In fact, this gave me great satisfaction for many, many years (or what I thought was satisfaction), and my whole identity became surrounded around the idea of needing to be better than someone else.
And then I became a wife and mother.
I found myself in a life where trying to compete to be the best was unattainable and stressful. I found myself in a life I didn’t know how to live. Love was freely handed to me by my husband and little baby with no expectation to perform. They didn’t measure me by another person’s failings or strengths, and this left me with a hole. If I couldn’t be the best or no one cared about me being the best, then who was I? What was I? How would I ever be seen? I truly had no idea who I was outside of being the best at any given thing, and found myself adding unnecessary projects into my life just to feel accomplished.
And one day the Lord met me. He sat me down and asked me who I thought He was. Was He a harsh judge? An unimpressed boss? A gossip waiting for my every misstep? Or was He my father and redeemer? My creator and lover of my soul? Who did I really think He was and who did he think I was? And as I answered His questions, a piece of the hole in my heart was filled. Not all, but a piece. It was a bigger hole than I had ever known it was.
Performing was my livelihood and way of protecting myself. But it was actually keeping me numb and unfulfilled. Keeping the love of God at arm’s length caused me to become unable to walk the path that was lovingly prepared for me because I needed man’s approval first. Man’s love. Man’s attention. I needed to feel important.
Many years have gone by since I have allowed God to start filling this hole in my heart. And many truths have sunk deeply in and taken root. I thought I had been healed and released completely… until a few months ago. Until I felt like I had nothing new to offer anyone and nothing to write. No advice, revelation, nothing. There was a blank spot in my mind. I didn’t understand. This silly blog wasn’t my idea- it was God’s. I never wanted to share my words with others- He called me to do it. And now it seemed as if it was done. Honestly, I thought to myself that there are a million blogs with a million talented writers anyway, and I must not be one of them. But there was this feeling of anticipation that I can only describe as more. I felt there was something more waiting for me to grasp onto, but I couldn’t figure out where to reach out and grab. Not only with my writing, but with my family and homeschooling and future. Where was I supposed to step? Why did I have this feeling of more and not have any sense of direction?
I found myself feeling a little impatient with God, which in turn became impatience with my husband and my children. I just had this feeling of dissatisfaction about everything I was doing and had no idea why. Nothing was different, except for this feeling of discontent. After a few weeks of this I found myself having a thought tantrum one day with God, and all the ugliness poured out of my heart. It went something like this…
“I can’t be the best wife, the best mom, the best homeschooler or the best writer. You call me to do these things that leave me feeling like I can never reach where I am supposed to get. I feel like I am constantly treading water with arms that are too heavy for me, and all of the things I love to do, I fail at. I love being a wife but I take the selfish road daily. I love being a mom, but my kids are a constant force to reckon with and there are just too many little hearts to fill. I have a passion to teach my children but do they even care? Do I really care? You told me to start writing, but what’s the point when so many others have so much more to offer? At the end of the day, all of my life looked at from afar seems to not add up to anything worth remembering. So I think I should just quit it all.”
I know, I know this sounds extreme. When I throw little thought tantrums, I tend to get extreme with God. Praise Him for his patience and grace filled heart towards us, because instead of throwing his hands in the air at me, like I was doing to all he has blessed me with, this was his response…
“Daughter, I love you and have filled you with my breath (Genesis 2:7). You don’t need to make a show of your life and strive for me to watch or for others to watch. I have walked before you, ahead of you, and am with you (Colossians 1:17). I am for you. Every good gift comes from me, and you are filled with my capabilities. Every dream you have and every passion you have is part of my love and plan for you. Stop performing and live. Stop striving in what I ask of you and live. Live abundantly and courageously. Live with joy and with my purpose. Let me lead you to the river and quench your thirst. Live for me alone. ”
Live for Him alone? That’s what all of my discontent was about. I was taking the Lord’s plans and making them my own. I still wasn’t living fully for Him and who he says I am, I was living for who man says I am and expected me to be. If the enemy can’t have your soul, he will still try and take the good things of God and stifle them if you give him room to do so. My performing heart was overtaking my servant’s heart. I didn’t want to be better than anyone else, but I still wanted more. In my timing. More wisdom, more ideas, more abundance. But I wanted this for selfish gain to heal a wound still left in me. Instead of wanting more out of a desire to serve the Lord, my family or others, I wanted more out of a fleshly desire for attention and praise.
But He was telling me to stop striving in what he has asked of me. Just live with joy and with courage. It takes courage at times to stop performing and simply serve in the Lord’s obedience. To live the life He intends and not take the gifts he has given us and manipulate them to fill a void in our hearts. And when we can accept that He truly is our creator and redeemer, we can see that our families, our talents, our passions, and our dreams are all a gift from Him. To be used for his glory so that we may be filled with the joy and peace our Father desires for us.
Ladies this month your challenge is: Begin to live the life that He has prepared for you. Stop performing and live. What things are you doing right now that aren’t aligned with His will for you, even if they are good things? What have you taken on that you know God has called you to, but you have turned it into a performance by leaning on your own abilities instead of his? Or performing for acceptance from others? Are there any areas that you are manipulating your talents to fulfill a wound in your heart? Examine your heart and ask yourself in what parts of life you are feeling unsatisfied. Is this dissatisfaction because you need to change something in your life like poor habits? Are you dissatisfied due to a striving heart? Or are you just tired and in need of the Lord’s refreshing? Be open to the Father’s correction. He only desires abundance for you.
After you have asked yourself these questions and answered yourself honestly, do this exercise. My husband had me do this and it revealed so much of what abundant living is for me and my family. Write down what an ideal dream day looks like to you. Not a vacation or when your kids are all out of the house, but right now. What do you desire for your everyday to look like? Don’t be afraid to write in your dreams and heart’s desires, because many of these have been put there by God. Examine your day on paper compared to the days you have been living out. Are you living the abundance that the Lord has for you? Are you delighting in His ways and truly enjoying the days you have been given? What about future desires you have? How can you begin to diligently work with the Lord’s leading to reach the more loftier things that have been stored in your heart for your family?
When I looked at my list compared to our everyday life, I laughed at a few of the things that I didn’t even know were important to me. Little things. Little dreams. Things that in my mind wouldn’t make a difference, but seeing it in my ideal day tells me how important it is to my family’s abundance. Like pancake Saturdays and family lego building day. Then there were a few things in there like going to the beach in the morning with everyone and drinking coffee while watching the kids run around in the sand. Can we do that everyday? No. But we can do it more often than we do now. This also showed me that I am desiring a slowness in our days that has slipped away (if you don’t know me or my family, the beach is deeply rooted in our hearts). And then the lofty dreams that I always think are just dreams so I push them away. But those dreams were in my ideal day, and seeing it written out struck something in me that these dreams can be reached and lived out.
And it all came full circle.
Life can be lived by striving and performing for our wants in order to attain our dreams. Or life can be lived in joyful abundance as the Lord leads us gently to the river. The dreams that are born within our souls have been put there by the Lord. And as we allow Him to heal our wounds and push selfishness aside, we can see the freedom in our calling. Dreams, when aligned with the will of God is the life we are to live. Big dreams that we have to endure many years for, or little dreams that we simply need to change habits for. We are to live in His abundance. We are to seek his abundance and believe that He will give us abundance. And when we stop performing, stop striving, and stop waiting for everyone to look at us and tell us we are doing something good and worthy, we will see that He has been looking at us the whole time. He has never taken his eyes off of us. He will never take his eyes off of us. He never asked us to perform for his love or attention.
But we need to live for Him alone, so that our eyes are not taken off of Him.
So that we don’t forget who he says we are.
Our heart is to be His.
Not for our husband, our children, our hobbies, our jobs, our schooling, our ministries, or everything life is made up of. We are to live for Him alone. We are to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). This is where the abundant life awaits for us, and the striving heart is healed. In Him and through him our steps will be established (Proverbs 16:9).
Don’t be like me and find yourself performing for some sort of acceptance. You are already accepted. Don’t be like me and start questioning whether God really desires the best for you because you don’t seem to be the best at any one thing. He is the best at everything and breathed the breath of life into you. Don’t live out mediocre days, like me, because the dreams (big or small) within you seem unimportant or unattainable. God knows the plans he has for you and they are good and profitable (Jeremiah 29:11).
This month, please join me in seeking the abundance God has for you and your family. As we come into a season of worship and thankfulness for the gift of Christ and the life he has bestowed upon us, reflect on the dreams big and small, He has put in your heart. With the new year coming, I am sure you have been thinking of resolutions. Look at what your ideal day holds in it. What does the Lord want for you, and how will you partner with Him to reach these days? We were meant to live and not strive. To be courageous and confident in who is leading us. Let the gift of Christ’s birth stir a renewed breath in your lungs.
May this month bring healing, restoration, courage, joy and peace to you and your family! “Unto us, a savior has been born, who is Christ our Lord” (Luke 2:11).