Admit It . . .

Ten months ago I felt a slight pain in my left shoulder. I ignored it as I figured with time it would eventually get better. It did improve over the summer, but this fall it started hurting. Again, I just ignored it, but after two months it was worse. Christmas season was in full swing, but I pushed on even though the pain was beginning to upset my sleep. Finally, I consulted a doctor. Result? I have a sprained shoulder and muscles with lactic acid build-up causing extreme tightness. Translation: You didn’t admit your problem, therefore you will have to endure severe pain as they work out the tightness. And I’m talking severe pressure point massage pain that has brought tears to my eyes. But, this almost daily “thorn in my side” therapy has taught me a few things about admitting.

1. Admit that rest is good for you, and don’t let guilt step in.

If you don’t rest, rest will be forced upon you. Just like my shoulder, if you don’t rest, your body and mind will eventually force you to rest. This is called burnout in the “m” world. Nobody wants burnout or severe fatigue. Rest is good for the mind, not just the body. When everything is in high gear, isn’t one of the first things we stop doing, is spending time in God’s word and being still before him? And tied with that is not doing those things we enjoy for fun like hiking, reading a book for pleasure, playing the piano (not practice for worship), or even taking a vacation without the work. 

Trust me, I know how hard this can be. The laundry, the dishes, the meals, the homework that needs to be graded and lesson plans submitted, ministry reports that need to be filled out and the ministry that needs to happen to write on those reports. It all adds up and the weight of it all can be so heavy, but . . .

2. Admit it, Jesus asks us to rest.

It’s a familiar verse that we have probably memorized, but have the hardest time actually doing. Jesus sends out his invitation saying, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NIV). These days Weary and Burden seem to link arms with me as I walk on this path of life. That is hard for me to admit. I have been self-sufficient and fairly independent my entire life, but I believe that is what God wanted to work out of my life. You see, my middle child has special needs, which requires energy that I feel I don’t always have.

At 13 years of age, she has the mental capacity of about a 4-year old. She is funny and loving, but she has hit her “teenage” years. She’s mainly nonverbal, so her typical teenage monthly “fits” are pure disobedience, screaming, and just getting angry in general very quickly. Thankfully, other moms with girls with the same syndrome tell me that it all eventually levels out. But, how do I accept Jesus’ invitation to “come and rest” now, in the midst of it?

I have found for me the best way is to get up before everyone to sit quietly with my Bible, my journal, and a cup of coffee. I reflect on the day before, read a passage, and then I sit still and remember who God is. I’ll be honest some days this sitting still is maybe ten minutes, but in that time I lay my burdens, my fears, and whatever else God puts on my heart to talk to Him about. It’s in the brief time that I stop and remember who is God.

3. Admit the lies about busyness.

If I’m busy doing all these great things then people will think awesome and wonderful. 

My supporters won’t doubt what we are doing here and maybe even more people will want to support us. 

Who else is going to reach these people, take care of their needs? If I don’t then what will happen to them? 

Be honest, you’ve thought this or something similar, right? Last week my husband read me a quote that someone shared on Facebook. I did some research and found it was from Chris Brown’s site Stewardship.com. This quote speaks truth loud and clear: “Extreme busyness is not a badge of honor – it’s code red.

Last week as I sat on a chair lined up next to six other elderly adults, all of us with cords coming out of a machine attached to some part of our body, I thought about Chris Brown’s statement. I examined my lifestyle and even my attitude towards rest. Here were some questions I asked myself,

  • Was I consistently spending time reading and studying God’s word?
  • Was I resting on the Sabbath?
  • Do I have a hobby I enjoy doing and can I admit that it is okay to do it?
  • I asked myself if I could place myself on a scale with busyness on one side and rest on the other, where would I put my “x”?
  • What do I need to admit to about rest? About my spiritual disciplines?

Admitting we need rest isn’t easy and we don’t always succeed, but isn’t that the beauty of grace? Loving us in our failures, showing us where we need to admit and adjust, and patiently waiting for us to enjoy Him.

How easy do you find it to admit that you are in need of rest? Do you need to evaluate how you are doing by asking the same questions that I asked myself?

  • Are you consistently spending time reading and studying God’s word?
  • Are you resting on the Sabbath?
  • Do you have a hobby you enjoy doing and can admit that it is okay to do it?
  • Where do you put your “x” on the busyness/rest scale?

10 Comments

  1. Erika Loftis April 5, 2017

    This probably sounds stupid, but I think it’s really hard to know when you are too busy, and when you are just being lazy and self-indulgent. I am a stay at home mum, all but one are in school. The one is starting school soon. I have a house helper who comes twice a week. I study language (in which I speak it with my teacher for 2 hours twice a week). I teach one one-hour class a week, and then spend the rest of my life running around. Seemingly on a treadmill. Somehow we never seem to have enough food, I never seem to have enough energy, I can see the disappointment on people’s faces when I tell them I stay at home, and my teacher and house helper both say things like “Well, you know, WE have to work. People in this country have to work.” And I feel so ashamed and wonder what the heck I do all day. And yet, I feel so busy. Nearly at capacity I think. Maybe more… So, how do I gauge? Am I lazy and self-indugent? Am I ok? How the heck would a person know!?

    1. Michelle S April 5, 2017

      Erika, I can so relate to this! When people find out that I’m single and live alone, they immediately start talking about how easy my life must be and how busy they are. And I too have felt ashamed and wondered what I do all day…because, honestly, when I look at my life it doesn’t seem to me, either, like I accomplish enough to be so busy! But that doesn’t change the fact that I AM busy. For a long time I struggled with guilt that I couldn’t do enough. I felt like there was something wrong with me and could never really rest because…well…how COULD I when I was already doing so little? Even though I was extremely busy and exhausted, I felt like I must be lazy and self-indulgent because I couldn’t do what others could.

      But God has slowly been showing me that He gauges things differently than I do. My heart at rest and in communion with Him is more important to Him than having a wonderful list of accomplishments to present to Him. I try to steward my time wisely and ask God to show me if there are ways that I could be using my time better. I do what what I can. But I’m learning to let go of my expectations of myself, and others’ expectations of me, to admit that I’m weak and can’t do and be “enough”, and to rest in His beautiful grace. And as I learn, I’m finding that, though I don’t magically have more time on my hands, I am able to enter more fully into what I can do and do it better.

      Praying for you that God will guide you into HIS perspective on your busyness!

      1. Erika Loftis April 5, 2017

        I appreciate that reminder. I’ve always experienced other people as my gauge. My friends, in my “home” culture. But outside of that, expectations are so different! Comparing yourself to people whose entire concept of parenting is different, or other Ms (who never seem to function without guilt driven, manic activity) leads to impossible standards! It just seems so hard, because my capacity is probably about 15% of what I could do in my home country, so even my old self is not a good gauge!. Anyway, all that to say, that obviously I need to REALLY lean in, and lean ON God’s hopes and desires for my life… justifying myself to Him. Again, thanks for that reminder! I imagine as single person ESPECIALLY you have to kind of defend yourself from the guilt quilts and demands on your time. Keep on it! Way to go! Although I frequently struggle to internalize this, a friend once told me that SHE was told by a seasoned and hard-core M “Do what it takes to STAY.” Air con. Hobbies. Friends. Free time. Dancing to Taylor Swift. Whatever. 😉

        1. Grace L April 5, 2017

          I agree with what was told to you by a long-termer: “Do whatever it takes to STAY.” My husband and I have been living in a rural city in East Asia for more than 10 years now, and we do indulge ourselves with enough comforts to make it possible for us to function here. And we are amazed at what can happen when you invest yourself into a community long term. It’s not even so much what you do and can accomplish each day as it is to be there for those you build relationships with. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your family.

    2. MaDonna April 5, 2017

      Hi, Erika!
      Thanks for commenting and being so vulnerable. Being a stay at home mom in a culture where it isn’t the norm is difficult. Where who you are is reflected in what you do, your profession, and/or your degree. I have had those same thoughts when we lived in China and had house help (and I still fight them today without the house help, haha). I tell you this, not for a “me, too. Me, too” moment. But rather, for you to know there are others, it’s normal, you’re not weird or lazy. I believe Michelle and Grace spoke wisely. Michelle wrote, “I try to steward my time wisely and ask God to show me if there are ways that I could be using my time better.” I believe this is something we should all do. I’ve been wondering lately if what I’m feeling busy with is because of time management…or things I’ve put in my plate to do instead of God.
      Grace and your Long~termer friend were right. Do what you need to do to stay….unless your health or God is telling you different (just wanted to put that disclaimer in, in case someone reading these comments are ignoring some major issues).

      Praying that God will show you and give you confidence and peace to be who He created you to be.

  2. Monica April 6, 2017

    Great Post…the questions are so important for Ms to ask themselves on a regular basis, to reflect on values, motives, inspiration, and priorities. I would respectfully like to disagree with the phrase, “Do whatever it takes to stay.” I think that sort of phrase has the risk of inducing guilt, causing confusion and causing people to feel trapped when the Father is clearly telling them to move on/Leave. Not everyone is meant to STAY, and what does that mean anyway? The Father could be asking someone to stay for 2 years, or 5 years, or 28 years. Having been a ‘career M’ for 17 years, and labeled as ‘hard-core’ by our colleagues, I feel terminology, like the above, can be very dangerous. Yes, it’s important to create an environment that allows for nourishment, comfort, and the ability to thrive in the host culture, however, we can’t always force those things to happen… we have to adapt, and when it’s time to move on, then we follow the Father’s leading. I did the village life- serious rural life- for years and years… and we thrived overall, and then…when it was time to go, I can’t believe how many people were disappointed, surprised, and concerned… as if we weren’t ‘hacking’ it. Had we become weak? Why couldn’t we STAY? Could we not ‘handle it’ anymore? Not at all…new season, new work, new beginnings. There don’t even need to be ‘ISSUES’ that exist for someone to leave ‘the field’. We have years of relationships that we are entrusting back to the Father, and now supporting others in our stead. So, I really do struggle with some of the missiological terminology us Ms often quote- because, now being on the ‘other side’, it can sound very judgmental or manipulative. Yes, there were sacrifices, hard decisions, and dark moments we went through to STAY, because it was right and good to do so. But we have to remember that everyone of us is our OWN STORY…. and the Father is writing it, we need to give people space to COME and GO, STAY and LEAVE without us knowing the whole story. I think there is sometimes a tendency within the M-culture to hero-ize Ms who are ‘hard-core’ or stay for certain lengths of time; we label, get competitive, compare, and comment in subtle ways. When we left, I suddenly felt incredible guilty– not from supporters, family or friends, but from FELLOW Ms! Perhaps, since our family did leave after 17 years, the word “stay” is now a trigger word for me…ha ha! (Love that M guilt, oh how it lingers:). Anyway, those are just some thoughts that bubbled up from the post and comments. I appreciate each one.

    1. Erika Loftis April 7, 2017

      I suppose this is the hard hard thing about the whole M gig, perhaps even life and faith et.al. Everything is pretty subjective. Subjective to our interpretation of God’s will. I agree that staying at all costs is often just plain stupid. Often, people make a huge pile of dumb choices, accepting the guilt quilt of M hood, that one that says people need to suffer to have a great prayer letter. The one that says you need to sweat out the 110 degree heat because turning on your air conditioner makes you weak, and is an ostentatious display of wealth. The one that says you need to go to a local church come hell or high water. Live in a mud hut. Kids go to local school… But, alternately, we sometimes can find ourselves making choices that are easy. Not going to local church, not learning the language, shopping import only, never attempting relationships with the people around us… But there isn’t a standard. There aren’t any hard and fast rules. Some women (me) can’t seem to manage their own households, much less outside ministry. Some women homeschool, run an orphanage, and single handedly rescue children from sex slavery, all while learning the local language, dressing culturally appropriately, and their children are also fluent in the local language. Boom! Some people come for two years, and are free to leave. Some come for 10. Some never leave. But still there are no standards. I think our own standards change like the wind.
      I’m sorry that “Stay” is a hard word for you. I don’t think that it’s meant to be a hard and fast rule, but only an encouragement to do what it takes to stay healthy, or to stay thriving, or to stay learning, or to stay in touch… As Ms we have created a hero narrative around the word “M” and none of us can embody that. And so many people burn out, coming home a pile of ash. Faith lost, human spirit broken. Perhaps someone saying “Doing what it takes to stay… awake, alive, healthy, thriving, faithful, loving, compassionate” is better. We need to strip the cape from the M word. We need to stop wearing our underpants on the outside like Superman.

      I think sometimes doing what it takes to “stay” means we have to leave.

      Anyway… all that to say… that lack of black and whiteness, the lack of standards, makes to hard to know if one is doing alright. It leaves us without a measuring stick while being asked how tall we are… And this is where, as we’ve been reminded, that we have to look up. God holds the measuring stick, and we have to trust Him to know our height. But gall-darn if that isn’t hard! I think that lack of definable standards kinda does my head in. Trusting God, knowing I’m so supremely fallible, is so hard…
      (sorry for rambling…)

      1. Monica April 7, 2017

        I love your rambling Erika- especially this: .Perhaps someone saying “Doing what it takes to stay… awake, alive, healthy, thriving, faithful, loving, compassionate” is better. We need to strip the cape from the word M. We need to stop wearing our underpants on the outside like Superman.

        Couldn’t agree more with your thoughts above!

    2. Grace L April 8, 2017

      Thank you, Monica, for your honest sharing. I needed to hear this. I especially liked what you said:
      “…we need to give people space to COME and GO, STAY and LEAVE without us knowing the whole story. I think there is sometimes a tendency within the M-culture to hero-ize Ms who are ‘hard-core’ or stay for certain lengths of time…” And to realize that the biggest guilt trips can come from fellow Ms. Wow, that is something we all need to take into account, whether we stay longer term or shorter. So thank you for sharing from your heart.

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