A Word to Our Weary Bones {The Grove: Burnout)

Eighty percent of the overseas women surveyed say they have felt close to burnout.*

Eighty percent.

We received more submissions for this week’s theme of burnout than we’ve had for any theme, ever.

Friends, we are a worn out group.

No doubt, burnout is a very real issue for many people living in their home countries, but women serving overseas seem to live the perfect recipe for this problem.

We are risk-taking, wannabe world changers. We are tender hearts living amongst big ugly needs. We are women living under relentless expectations.

We’re living outside the familiarity and support of our home countries. We are women experiencing frequent culture clashes, also known as the “shaking of all you’ve ever known about yourself and the world.”

Add financial stress, role changes, conflict in community, a crisis or two, and well, burnout should come as no surprise.

I count myself among those who have teetered on the brink of burnout. I know well those feelings of “I’ve got nothing left. I don’t know how to keep going.”

And as I am journeying on the hard and holy road to healing and renewal, here’s what’s happening…

(My pulse quickens even as I type this.)

I’m catching a vision. A vision for my life and yours. A dream of change for the current generations of women with feet in the fields, and a dream for those to come after us.

So can I get a bit prophetic right now?

Can I tell you what I see?

Because like Ezekiel I see an open plain strewn with bones. Our bones. Our dry, worn out bones.

I see women laid flat, women who’ve gathered the courage to let ourselves break. To release. To let go of our try harder lives. To free-fall into brokenness.

Through the dust, across the sun-bleached bits of our shattered bones, I hear a voice:

“‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!’

God, the Master, tells the dry bones, ‘Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come alive. I’ll attach sinews, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!’” (Ezekiel 37:5-6)

Then I hear the rustling. The clicking and coming together of bone to bone. Piece by piece. Sinews forming, skin stretching.

And then I feel it. Coming from the four winds, the breath of life. Whirling down, it’s filling our lungs, we’re coming alive.

We’re taking first steps, we’ve learned a new dance.

We’re here to live in wholeness and strength.

We’re kicking down the propped up pedestals that protected our former fragility.

We’re here to live real.

We’re done living along the brink of burnout.

We’re dialing back our messiah-complexes, we’re here to let the Messiah reign.

We’re here to live for the glory of God and the good of his kingdom, but we’re not doing it by our own grit and strength anymore.

We’re living by the Holy Spirit who courses through our veins, carries our burdens, grants us rest.

We’re women who know how to rest, how to live the Sabbath, not in legalism, but in glorious freedom.

We’re women who weep like God over the pain in the world.

We’re women who look at that pain and don’t feel the crushing need to DO IT ALL, FIX IT ALL.

We’re women who know how to say, “This is the role God’s given me, and that is not.” Then we go fling ourselves passionate and free into the role that is ours.

We’re done vying for the spotlight of God’s love and people’s praise.

We’re no longer trying to out-serve and out-suffer each other.

We’re leaving comparison and judgment in the dust of that field.

We’re each of us secure in our own belovedness, unleashing our prior piety into unabashed encouragement for each other.

We’re taking those bits of our past, the lines of our stories we longed to erase, and we’re holding them high, lighthouse flashes of hope.

We’re here to walk boldly into big things, and we’re here to hide quietly in simple smallness. Both ways are the revolution rising.

Our lungs are full, we’re breathing life.

We are the tide of change. Generations after us won’t call us the worn out, burned out.

We’ll be the renewed and released.

Can you see it too?

Can you hear His voice calling out over our brokenness? Can you feel his breath on your lips?

*****

Have you been laid out flat in the land of brokenness and burnout? Are you teetering on the brink? Want to share your story with us? I shared mine awhile back right here. I’d love to hear your story too.

Which lines here resonated for you? Are you living this vision in your own life? What’s holding you back?

Are we ready to be the renewed and released?

*****

We want you to know we have something in the works for you. Something for your weary bones. Something to connect you with the Breath of Life. How does a personal retreat sound to you? A day or half day that you spend alone with God and the rich resources we’ve designed just for you. It’s coming, the Velvet Ashes Retreat for you, right where you are. Clear some space in your calendar for a half-day retreat anytime April 17-19. Register here!

*****

This is what we call The Grove.  It’s where we all gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art on our weekly prompt.  So join us in the comments.  Show us your art work by adding an image. And link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt.  Click here for details and instructions.

*Survey from Expectations & Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission

Photo Source : Unsplash

35 Comments

  1. Beth Everett March 12, 2015

    Beautifully expressed, Danielle, with such living giving hope!

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 12, 2015

      Thanks, Beth.  I’m so glad you linked up!  Everyone, go read her post.  So good!!

      1. Kimberly Todd March 12, 2015

        I need a like button here.

  2. Malia March 12, 2015

    Yes! “Our lungs are full. We’re breathing life!” May it be that we all stop trying to save the world and instead journey with our Savior in worshipful, peaceful steps–one at a time. “Renewed and released”–absolutely, this is what we need.

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 12, 2015

      Malia, I love what you added to the conversation this week about filling our lungs literally.

      1. Kimberly Todd March 12, 2015

        And here.

  3. Kimberly Todd March 12, 2015

    These lines:

    We are risk-taking, wannabe world changers. We are tender hearts living amongst big ugly needs… We’re women who know how to say, “This is the role God’s given me, and that is not.” Then we go fling ourselves passionate and free into the role that is ours… We’re here to walk boldly into big things, and we’re here to hide quietly in simple smallness. Both ways are the revolution rising.

    Thank you.

     

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 12, 2015

      Thank YOU, friend, for wrestling with and living out these lines with me!  

      1. Ruth March 13, 2015

        I also love that quote!

  4. Erin March 12, 2015

    Danielle!

    This spoke so loud to my spirit today 🙂  I love the pictures that it painted in my mind.

    We’re taking those bits of our past, the lines of our stories we longed to erase, and we’re holding them high, lighthouse flashes of hope.

    I never thought of taking the “lines of pain” that have been allowed in my life to be held high as a beacon.  It makes sense to take the sufferings that have changed me for His use to be the lighthouse flashes of hope to commemorate His perfect faithfulness!

    I don’t know if you have listened to Christ Tomlin/Lecrae’s song, Awake My Soul.  It’s great as it is exactly about what you have addressed: dry bones.

     

     

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 12, 2015

      I’m so glad, Erin.  I absolutely believe he will be using your lines of pain as a beacon.  I love your beautiful heart and your faith that clings to him!  

      No, I hadn’t heard the song.  I just listened to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALW1AwdKEnM. You’re right, that’s exactly it!  

  5. Cyndi March 12, 2015

    Thank you for this.  We spent the month of January at Link Care in California for this very thing.  After 11 years on the field, we were just worn out.  We didn’t get “fixed” but we came out feeling a lot better about our ability to handle life.

    1. Cyndi March 12, 2015

      Holy photo, Batman!  I’ve always wondered what I would look like as a life-sized poster.  🙂

      1. Danielle Wheeler March 12, 2015

        Haha.  I love it!  Now, I’ll have your beautiful face tied to your name. 🙂  

         

    2. Danielle Wheeler March 12, 2015

      So glad you got to go to Link Care, Cyndi.  We were there last July with the same experience.  Here’s to renewal and release!    

  6. Kim March 12, 2015

    This post is such an encouragement! The verses from Ezekiel are so apt. After months of feeling like I was enveloped in a heavy fog, the turning point came just a month ago. God clearly closed a door, and although it was initially very painful (sort of like having the door slammed in your face when you’re standing close enough for it to smash your nose), the resulting relief has been palpable; I’m almost giddy! We have a renewed energy for the work and are daring to dream again.

    Finding Velvet Ashes has been a gift from God, refreshing my soul and encouraging my spirit. When you wrote:

    “We’re no longer trying to out-serve and out-suffer each other.

    “We’re leaving comparison and judgment in the dust of that field.

    “We’re each of us secure in our own belovedness, unleashing our prior piety into unabashed encouragement for each other.”

    …I was smiling and nodding and doing the happy dance.

    The past six years have involved one difficult situation after another. Each hard circumstance has taught us something about ourselves and much about God. One of the take-aways has been a desire to become a “safe” person for other women, especially other cross-cultural workers. Recently I’m feeling the nudge to go beyond that, to create something that would refresh and encourage other women in my country of residence. I’m not sure how that’s going to look, but I’m starting to set aside time to research, to pray and to plan.

    I think we are all more than ready for the tide of change.

     

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 12, 2015

      Kim, your comment has ME doing the happy dance!  May the Breath of Life blow and lead you on!     

  7. Kay Bruner March 12, 2015

    …and yet, you know, I wouldn’t take it back for anything in the world.  It’s awful to go through, but the GIFTS that have come out of it.  God uses every single little thing!  I just came back from my office, sitting all day with people who are right where I was 12 years ago.  I LOVE IT!  I love getting to do what I do.  And would I be able to do what I do, without the experience of burnout/breakdown?  I don’t think so.  I don’t want to be who I was before.  I guess God could have used gentler means, but I think I was a pretty tough nut to crack  🙂  Our Redeemer lives.

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 13, 2015

      Kay, I love the way that you hold your story high as a lighthouse flash of hope.  It was certainly that for me.  I love picturing people in your office with you, as you walk with them through this journey.  

  8. Elizabeth March 12, 2015

    This: We’re dialing back our messiah-complexes, we’re here to let the Messiah reign.” I wonder if this is our biggest problem. I think Robynn’s post earlier in the week concurs.

    At a prayer service earlier this week we sang “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne,” and my husband asked us to think about whether we have taken that salvation upon ourselves, and whether we need to give salvation back to God. Wow. Yes. I know I’ve certainly thought it all depended on me to “fix” people before. That was a lot of pressure. It filled me with worry over every little step, wondering if I was doing everything perfectly enough to save people. Ugg. 

    A reflection on burnout . . . last fall was brutal on me. A series of 4 months of Brutal, things both in my control and out of my control. I was concerned for myself, so I wrote my member care associate and asked for help. She sent me a bunch of documents to help self-diagnose burnout. I worked through them, and determined I wasn’t in burnout (the good news). But I was under incredible stress, which, if left unattended, can lead to burnout (the bad news). So I took some radical steps to prevent burnout, including no social events at all during the months of December and January (I called them my “burnout prevention months.”) I’ve continued taking new steps this year to nurture my soul, including a personal retreat day — my first time was last weekend! After only 6 hours, I was amazed how refreshed and ready I was to return to regular life, and how I even loved my host country again.

    I wish it were easy to do the self-care that prevents burnout. But it’s not. It’s hard. It’s hard to make myself exercise when I want to watch TV. It’s hard to make myself get up in the morning to meet with God when all I want to do is sleep. It’s hard to say no to social engagements when I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings but also know that too many social events make me numb to God and unable to actually care about people besides myself. And it seems my social calendar is always getting out of control, and I’m always having to reign it in. These things are hard, and I wish it weren’t so. I wish I didn’t have to fight for my own soul. I wish I didn’t have to fight for Rest. The last few weeks have been brutal on us again. And just this morning I had to make some choices that might disappoint other people, in order to take care of my family. It is hard not to feel guilty over these decisions. But I do believe they are the right things to do.

    I’m excited for the VA personal retreat day coming in April!

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 13, 2015

      Elizabeth, yeah, I do think that our messiah complexes are at the root of it.  

      I’m so sorry you’ve had a brutal few weeks.  So glad you’re fighting for Rest.  And I hate that sinking feeling when you have to disappoint and tell someone “no.”  Hate it.  But I’m finding that usually it’s not near as bad as I fear, and then when it’s over, I’m so glad that I did make that choice.

      And this: “I wish it were easy to do the self-care that prevents burnout, but it’s not.  It’s hard.”  YES!  So hard.  I love that as a community we can help each other fight for what’s worth it.  

      And I’m all kinds of excited for the VA Retreat!  Like you said, it’s amazing what a personal retreat can do for your soul!        

    2. Jennifer March 13, 2015

      Elizabeth,

      You are right… and highlighting the importance of the self-care we can do, need to do, which it going to be different for each one of us is an important part of the process.  This can be big and small things, times for space and quiet and times to allow people into do something for us. We need to each work out what that is for us personally, and commit to doing it. I know I am not always so good at that. Many lessons to learn yet.

  9. Melissa March 13, 2015

    Struggling to read this post through the tears filling my eyes, the sob catching in my throat. This is a vision of hope that I desperately need right now. Thank you.

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 14, 2015

      Thank you so much for sharing that, Melissa.

      Jesus, breathe your breath of hope on Melissa right now.  May this vision become real in her life.  Piece her together, bone by bone.  Bring renewal and release.  Amen.

  10. T March 13, 2015

    Those Old Testament prophetic books are really encouraging me right now.  This from Ezekiel and also back in 36.  Also got a fresh installment of hope by parts of Joel this week.  I wrote some of Ez. 36.22-23 on our chalkboard wall…it ties in with Psalm 115 for me…the whole ‘for the glory of Your Name and they will know that You are the Lord’ stuff.  In Ez. He is saying that He will restore everything and make it fruitful and all…and down further, it says, “and then the other people (the nations) will walk by and see what I have done, and they will know that I am the Lord”.  So, like Kay said above, He will use everything for good.  Even those fields that the locusts ate he will restore…and it will be for the making much of, the making greater of His Name.   I am still a bit fried, but am seeming to be coming out of a big mess that has been years worth of grief.  I am hopefully more tender than before…like a plant w/some sort of dry outer skin that has broken off to reveal the new growth underneath–I hope!  I’m not sure that is showing itself enough, though!  A big help to me was attending the Breathe conference, and talking to a counselor there.

    1. Elizabeth March 13, 2015

      Oooh, T, the Breathe conference sounds amazing. I’d love to hear more about your experiences, but only if you’re willing to share 🙂

        1. Elizabeth March 15, 2015

          This sounds AMAZING. So glad you had the opportunity to go!

      1. T March 15, 2015

        umm.  i have just a few min right now.  pretty much, adult american pastor, was kind of a worker kid–his parents went to the field each summer and the full-time workers there would come to their house every night and be counseled by his parents.  they thought he was sleeping, but he heard many of their struggles.  grew up, became pastor, wanted to help xcultural workers.  he and his fam use much of their time raising resources to make breathe happen, and recruiting very qualified counselors to come to their retreats.  daily, it is prayer and worship, he shares from the Word, usually relating to burnout/struggles we have kind of thing, often a short small group time about that topic.  afternoons and eves are free for looking at nature (switzerland) and resting.  also, almost every single day, you have your counseling appt.  you are highly encouraged to take that opp to see your counselor and have at it!  i went w/just my kids due to husband’s work, and so, i didn’t share the counselor, and went 7 times, i think!  it was a bit intense to do them day after day, but really, really good.  kids were in kids program all morning adn afternoon.  was youth program, too.  they want people to rest, eat well, sleep well, see beautiful nature, and reconnect w/Him.  a really big blessing for me!

    2. Danielle Wheeler March 14, 2015

      “Even those field that the locusts ate…”  Yes!  That is the glory of our God, that he can use it ALL for good.  Rejoicing for your new growth and the opportunity you had to go to Breathe.  And yes, we’d love to hear more about Breathe!

      1. T March 15, 2015

        link and quick info in my reply above!

  11. Laurie March 14, 2015

    I did not enter a story or post this week as I have for the past several weeks. The topic is too close to write about properly. However, I have witnessed the burned fields of sugarcane plots give way to fertile fields. What starts as black and stripped eventually yields fertile soil that brings new crops.  I think of Isaiah 43:19 I am about to do something new. It is beginning to happen even now. Don’t you see it coming? I am going to make a way for you to go through the desert. I will make streams of water to the dry and weary land.

    1. Danielle Wheeler March 14, 2015

      I get the “being too close to it to be able to write.”  We’re here whenever the time is right for you.  And those verses… they make me want to stand up and shout and sit down and cry all at the same time.  That is exactly why we chose our name.  The Velvet Ash is a tree that thrives in the desert.  God makes a way…

  12. How to Find Refreshment on the Field March 23, 2015

    […] we are rising up to say, “We’re done being the worn out, burned out generation.”  We’re casting a vision of life and renewal for our weary […]

  13. Sheila March 25, 2015

    This is where I’m at. During the four+ years we’ve served in China my five home schooled children & I have never been back to the States. However, in two months, we will be repatriating back to Texas. Until then I still have to home school, sell everything, pack our 16 suitcases, & plan my sons high school graduation. Needless to say, I am looking forward finally getting a time of rest (while eating Braum’s mint chocolate chip ice cream). In the mean time, however, am believing for His spiritual breath of life to come into me again, to revive my weary bones. ‘Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come alive. I’ll attach sinews, put meat on your bones {personal note here: Thank you Jesus that you actually did this, but I have enough ‘meat’ on my bones, so you could give that part to someone else who needs it-LOLl!}, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!’” (Ezekiel 37:5-6).

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