The End of Me

I’ll just say it at the beginning.

I like being in control of the day. I like managing and leading and directing. And honestly, it isn’t so much that I like it as that I’m pretty good at handling a lot of things at one time so those roles tend to fit my personality.

Multi-tasking is my favorite. Don’t give me a bunch of little details, but if you need someone to organize the grand picture of a project and manage how to get it all done? I’m your girl. I love working with people, finding strengths, building a team, and finishing tasks quickly and efficiently.

Thriving with lots to do while holding a big checked off list of accomplished things in a short amount of time, that is a great day. Smiling while digging into a large task that needs fixed, sorted and organized, that is another great day. Knowing that the next day is prepped for more great things… yep. That is great night.

The calendar, taking care of schedules, planning events, directing the details of the day are all things that contribute to my peace of mind. I am a person who would organize my dreams… if that was possible.

Now the itty bitty details? That is not me.

The spending great amounts of time on one task? being ok with getting very little done in a day? That is not me.

The idea of starting a project and knowing it will take weeks to finish… SO not me.

Those things frustrate me and cause untold stress because there is no check list to be checked and no list to throw away!

And guess what?

Unfortunately, that tends to be overseas life.

Overseas life can be slow, one task a day… and you might not even finish THAT task.

It is tiny details and paperwork and waiting and slow, slow, slow.

So, does that mean overseas living is not for me?

My natural self screams, “This is SO not for you! This is SO NOT you!”

Satan whispers, “You did nothing today. You can’t accomplish anything here. You won’t ever have a finished list. You won’t thrive going so slow.”

And even my own heart thoughts came boiling out one day before we left language school while on a run with my husband.

These thoughts had been churning inside of me. They were bright, flaring warning lights that let me know I was headed for trouble and about ready to slam into the end of me. Partly because France was a baby step into where we were headed… In France, I didn’t have my minivan to quickly zip in and out, finishing errands and organizing my day by where I had to go and what needed done. France was walking and long train rides and paperwork and needing my husband to go grocery shopping so he could help carry it all back to the apartment. Life was hard on this list making, organizing, get-it-done girl. The grocery stores are closed during peak shopping hours, of all things! How does a person get things done when the post office won’t open again until 2pm!

But the coming move from language school to West Africa, that had me frozen in doubt and seeing a huge wall in my path. Seriously… what annoyed, frustrated and stressed me in France was going to double, triple… it was going to change my life and my way of doing life.

My control was gone. And the wall called “loss of control” scared me to death.

So… we were on this run before leaving France and I broke. Completely broke. The warning lights were blaring through my mind telling me a crash with the wall was coming. The thoughts of transition and change and failure all stampeded across my brain in marked succession.

Who am I without my lists and my freedom and my ability to DO something, to control my day? How do you help your family, organize a schedule, and get things done when the days are so out of control?

I tripped on the sidewalk, bent over my knees, and tears flooded my eyes. I looked up at Jeremy, “I’m at the end of me. I’m at the end of what I can do. I don’t know how to do things in Africa. I can’t drive there. I can’t do things there. I don’t know how to cook there or shop there or do laundry there. I won’t be able to do anything. I’m at the end of me and I don’t know how to handle this feeling of complete incompetence. I feel lost and I don’t know how to do this.”

My sweet, perfectly made for me husband put his hand on my back and said, “We will learn.”

I cried harder, “I don’t know how to learn it there!”

And now that I’m here, in West Africa, life is pretty much as I figured it would be.

I really don’t know how to do anything here. I certainly can’t control much. Everything is actually OUT of my control. I can’t make sure a business will be open when I need to go there. I can’t make sure the workers will be at our new rental house getting the things done so we can move in. I can’t force the power to stay on or water to enter our reserve tank. I can’t even make a to do list because I don’t know what the conditions will be when I open my eyes in the morning.

I’m at the loss of me. The wall has been hit. The crash happened. But the beauty of that?

I’m meeting Jesus face to face.

I’m needing him every single hour of the day.

I’m seeing Him sweep in and meet a need without me having to control any bit of it.

I’m laying me down, another layer of my gifts at His feet knowing He has promised to make something beautiful out of my mess.

Have you been there?

That moment of complete loss of control, that place of realizing your gifts don’t really fit the task? Are there warning lights going off in your brain letting you know a crash of wills is coming, that the wall called “loss of control” is ahead of you?

I want to challenge you to hit the wall. To tell God all about it. To let Him carry the doubt, pain and stress for you. I want to challenge you to let Him orchestrate your days in the beautiful way that only He can do. Meet Him face to face, let Him sweep in and carry you through.

25 Comments

  1. DebMills October 7, 2015

    Jennilee, this is one of the most beautiful pieces that I have read in a long time. I have been in this place before…and we may be moving into such a place again. The Lord used your blog to comfort my heart tonight. Thank you. He is always faithful.

    1. DebMills October 7, 2015

      Do not know why my pic displays so large…that is so not me…but can’t delete it. Blessings, Dear One. Thanks again for the piece…and for being willing to go to that hard place of the end of your self. The prize is you find Him there, right? Right.

      1. Jenilee October 8, 2015

        🙂 They will fix this big pic for you 🙂 I’ve done the SAME thing! I’m so glad this was a comfort to you. Honestly, as I continue down this road, it is a comfort to read for myself again, knowing He is before me, behind me and all around me. Thank you for your note!

  2. Leanne Treme October 7, 2015

    Great article, I’ve been in that spot on occasion. I love the way God sweeps in when we hit a wall.  Your transparency gives hope to others. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Jenilee October 8, 2015

      when God sweeps in… love that. He sure does.

  3. Anna October 7, 2015

    I really like being in control of my day, too.  And using my time efficiently, and checking tasks off my list.  Then I lived in Congo for about 5 years.  LOL

    1. Jenilee October 8, 2015

      exactly 🙂 oh, how Africa will change us. And Oh how God will use it all for His glory! The process isn’t always fun though, right?

  4. susan October 8, 2015

    sooo can relate.  sounds an awful lot like my first two years on the field.  hang in there.  it gets better!:)

  5. Rachel October 8, 2015

    I’m better at details, one step at a time, than the big organizing of everything, but still, in job interviews, I could always boast that I accomplish tasks very efficiently. I never miss a deadline because I’m always done a week early. And now I live in Africa. “I can’t even make a to do list because I don’t know what the conditions will be when I open my eyes in the morning.” – I am so there, too. God loves taking us out of our self-sufficiency and putting us in a place where we depend on him.

    1. Jenilee October 8, 2015

      That sentence is SO true! We wake up each day, my husband and I, and say, “Ok… what needs done today.” We attempt a list and then try to be happy with whatever comes our way and whatever gets done, knowing tomorrow will come to attempt it all again. But, my details friend, I need you! 🙂

  6. Lauren Pinkston October 8, 2015

    Wait, what? Did I write this? No…there really is another woman like me out there!

    Your post is the story of my transition abroad. Grace has never meant to me what it does now after months and months of failing at the task lists and unproductive days.

    Thanks for writing this! Beautiful!

    1. Jenilee October 8, 2015

      yes. grace. one single day at a time. and just what we need in that moment, that hour.

  7. kylie October 8, 2015

    Jenilee,

    Thank you. I was just starting to smirk while reading your post, because this Velvet Ashes site has just been writing to me every single day it seems. Your post was resonating with me very strongly, and as I smirked I got to the part of running with your husband . . . Jeremy. Which is my husband’s name. Then I laughed out loud.

    Thank you for sharing! Thank you for reminding me that in these days of not having control, I am learning such bigger lessons. Thank you for pointing out that some of the things I am struggling with right now are very likely related to my desire to be in control. I have been dwelling on this truth this week: You are the God not bound by time. I am feeling huge time pressures, and just not even knowing the right steps to take to get everything done in the next three weeks, but that’s okay. I’m finding the balance of resting and redeeming the days, and He is good for that. He is in control, and I am trying to let that be enough.

    “I want to challenge you to let Him orchestrate your days in the beautiful way that only He can do.” Thank you for that!! 

    1. Jenilee October 8, 2015

      Thanks for connecting on facebook! I love that we have some connections… what a small world! Redeeming the days… as only He can.

  8. Lisa Neumann October 8, 2015

    YES. All of it. Thank you for your words! We are currently transitioning to Eastern Europe where I spend MUCH more time doing laundry… and my husband does 90% of the grocery shopping, because it’s on his way home, and he doesn’t  have four kids with him. Our sending agency counsels us that, living abroad, we should only plan or try to get ONE THING done in a day. JUST ONE. I was expecting this, but I still find it incredibly frustrating. On the flip side, on the rare day when we get something done by 10:00 in the morning, my husband cheers, “that’s our one thing! We got one thing done! We don’t have to do anything anymore! What do we do with our day off?!” Lol!

    1. Anna October 8, 2015

      I can relate to the difficulty of getting one thing done in a day. 🙂  This was especially true when we would travel to the capital city (Brazzaville), and we would have a list of things to get done.  Which ONE should we try today. 🙂

      1. Jenilee October 8, 2015

        lol which one should we TRY today… so much YES!! 🙂

    2. Jenilee October 8, 2015

      I read this to my husband 🙂 love it! And yes, our roles have greatly changed. With one car, and one driver because driving here is CRAZY and I’m not ready for it yet, so much more is on him than ever before. He is a champ and will do anything that needs done… but it is a hard transition.

  9. Adelaide October 8, 2015

    Oh my. I’m reading with tears in my eyes. This is our first week in our new field location and I’m feeling defeated. On day three we got lay-flat-on-your-back-unless-you’re-running-to-the-toilet  sick and have been slowly recovering. Even as I gain strength to keep trying to set up home here, I keep running into walls: not having the right supplies to do the easiest of tasks, moldy bread, a very pokey cactus left on the window sill, the inability to communicate. These walls take a far greater emotional toll than physical (though I keep finding more tiny cactus spines in my skin). I’ve burst into tears of inadequacy and defeat more times than I can count today.
     
    Anyways, that’s all to say, thank you for this post. It’s the reminder I needed that we will make it through, that it’s okay that learning another culture and another language and starting life over again is completely overwhelming. He will be faithful and carry us through.

    1. Jenilee October 8, 2015

      so sorry about that mean pokey cactus!! Not nice! 🙂 and really, not funny… it is those little things all piled up that make the days incredibly hard and lonely and frustrating. When we desperately need His grace. Thanks for sharing your story… He IS faithful.

  10. Sarah Crane October 9, 2015

    Jennilee, oh sister friend, yes and AMEN! I too am a “give me a project, let’s get it done” kinda girl. I even sometimes love the detailed work when I know it’s making a great whole, toward a vision of a big picture completion.

    Then move me to rural Uganda, and every week, if not every day, turns that all around. Maybe the power is out and my computer battery can’t last to finish the work of the day. Or the interet is down for days at a time, so forget emails! Or a student is sick and the whole school is in uproar, so scratch all th weeks meetings and change the plans. Or there’s a tree on the house or ants attacking the compound. Or fill in the blank, week by week! Many days, this stuff makes me feel crazy. My schedule and planning out the window, my ability to accomplish anything feeling trampled in the dust. But in the midst, Jesus has been whispering (and some days shouting through my deafness) to me to look at Him. To ask Him what’s most important today. To rust Him when things fall apart or don’t get done. To find times to get the work and projects done, but also to not miss the people before me for the sake of my to-do list (or lack thereof 😉 ). He’s teaching me to be ok to just be. My African friends are teaching me so much about slowing down and trusting Him and living in peace with the day to day.

    Right now now it’s rainy season here , and it brings with it another reminder of slowing down and listening to Him. When it rains here, it pours. And when the rain comes, everyone hunkers down right where they are until it’s over. Life slows down. We wait. We enjoy one another and the quiet peaceful drummin of rain on tin roofs. And though my to do list isn’t shrinking, my heart is learning to know peace and joy in the simple be-ing.

     

    Thanks for your good, true words!

    1. Jenilee October 9, 2015

      Thank you for sharing what He is speaking to you in this season… I am loving learning from the culture around me too… a pause each day for lunch, plenty of time for visiting with friends sitting in the shade or under a shelter during the rain, just time to talk and enjoy each day. A wonderful lesson for us all!

  11. Krista October 10, 2015

    We have a friend with a ministry of schools in east Africa.  Someday when all the kids are school age I think we plan to go there and teach.  But one thing he said one time has hidden in the back of my mind for 10 years.  He said something to the effect of, if you’re worried about the little things, then we don’t want you here.  I’m not sure what he meant entirely, but I’m a total list maker and control type person and without even knowing when or if we are going I sometimes think about the little things, living in a village, with dirt floors and no grocery stores and I wonder if he would want me.
    But I think perhaps if the way I understood him was actually what he meant then he is wrong, or at least that place is wrong for us.  So thank you for sharing this, for letting me know that not all overseas workers go with no thought to the details.  (and coincidentally he grew up there as an MK so it’s not like he really has had the same experience of learning a new place)

    1. Jenilee October 10, 2015

      Well, I’m not sure what he meant exactly, but I would say that if God calls you anywhere in the world outside your birth culture, you will be challenged in the details. For me, I struggled with “Can God still use me in this setting?” and even deeper, “Can I handle living in that culture?” And God has answered each time with a resounding, “Yes.” Will it be hard? YES. Will is challenge you in untold ways? Yes. But God will not just walk with you through it, He will teach you a great many things about Himself and about yourself in the process. With that said, overseas workers NEED to be good with details! It takes GREAT amounts of planning and paperwork and scheduling to make it all happen, to pack, to travel… so your gifts can be a huge blessing. thanks for sharing your story!! Prayers as you make big decisions and listen for God’s direction!

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