Exhausting Expectations and the Gospel of Grace

Last week I hit a wall emotionally, mentally and physically. My husband was out of town for 4 days on business, and even though this is nothing new for our family, it was a long 4 days. I took the kids to a new homeschool group outing, which was a good experience, but very draining. And we were trying really hard to finish up the school week on schedule so that we could start our holiday-themed fun school books and projects this week. I had not had any good quality adult conversation in a while, and the time zone difference between my husband’s location in California and ours in Tennessee made daily calls with him challenging. Nothing traumatic happened all week, and I even managed not to completely lose my cool with the kids during that time. But by the weekend, I was completely worn out. I felt depleted and depressed.

My husband knew I was struggling. He and I had a long conversation, and I cried a lot. It took me a long time to talk through all the things I was upset about, all the hard things that were dragging me down, but at the end, it all boiled down to this: I had been setting my expectations for myself too high again, and I was exhausted from trying and failing to measure up. You see, as a perfectionist, I have unreasonably high standards for myself and my performance. And when I do not meet my own standards, I often beat myself up for being such a big, fat failure. I walk around in defeat because I know I can never be good enough. But the ridiculous part is that no-one else has these outrageous expectations for me. My kids don’t. My husband doesn’t. My friends don’t. And most importantly, God doesn’t.

That is the hardest one to wrap my mind around. God does not expect perfection from me. He does not demand that I perform to a certain set of unattainable standards. He knows I am human. He expects me to make mistakes, to fail the test, to sin. And yet He still loves me. How can it be that this Holy God who is himself infinitely good and perfect still love me when I fall so far short of perfection time and time again? Because of GRACE. Because of Christ’s work on the cross. Because He has taken my sin as far as the east is from the west and left it there to be seen no more. When God the Father looks at me, He does not see my sin and my failure. All He sees is Christ in me, a new creation, beautiful and blameless.

This is so hard for me to get through my head and sink into my heart. But it is the Gospel. It is the Truth. And it is what I need to hear and read and speak and believe day in and day out. I need to eat, drink, sleep and breathe the grace of God. Because when I don’t, I live in a place of defeat, irritability and depression. I am open to the attacks of the enemy. And I am not a very pleasant person to be around. When I am living in the light of grace, on the other hand, I can have peace and joy, knowing that my value as a person does not depend on my performance. I can go through each day without guilt about unfinished tasks, admitting my faults without beating myself up. I can repent and ask God for the strength and help to do better tomorrow, knowing that He does not love me any less when I fall. He just picks me back up and dusts me off, hugs me and sets me back on the path, holding my hand as I go. I have a long road to travel to learn to give myself grace in my imperfection. Thank the Lord that He will be with me all the way!

What Do I Need? #fiveminutefriday

Thinking about “needs” today, I was struck by how many things I think I need on a daily, or at least a regular basis:

I need quiet.
I need personal space.
I need my morning tea.
I need to write.
I need to read.
I need to create.
I need to connect with my husband.
I need to connect with my kids.
I need time outside in nature.
I need water.
I need wholesome food.
I need to feel understood.
I need prayer.
I need a plan.
I need a to-do list.
I need sleep.
I need structure.
I need flexibility.
I need peace.
I need a clean house.
I need the internet.

Most of all, though, I need the grace of God to get me through the day.

Some of my needs are healthy things. Others may be less than healthy. Some are things that are easy to get on a daily basis. Others are more challenging for me to get right now. Some of my needs are filled by means of self-discipline. Others are filled as a simple matter of habit. And still others are actually out of my control. All my needs, in the end, are ultimately fulfilled by God’s provision, either directly or indirectly. And to Him I offer thanks and praise at the end of the day for giving me what I truly needed.

And my God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19 (NASB)

This post is part of Five Minute Fridays. To read my other FMF posts, click the tag #fiveminutefriday at the bottom of the page. 

Like A Tree #Write31Days Day 17

Have you ever stopped to think about the growth of a tree? Through bitter cold, blistering heat, blustery wind, beating rain, and blazing sun. Through good years of plenteous rains and lean years of drought. From tiny and tender seedling, to soft and supple sapling, to young and vigorous greenwood, to old and sturdy hardwood. A tree withstands so much. Though its bark and wood may show scars from wounds or disease, with its roots running deep and branches ever reaching toward the sun, a strong tree can heal and thrive. Its branches spread. Its leaves give shade. It brings forth flowers for beauty. It bears fruit, nut and seed to give food to the living creatures in its shade. Its strong limbs offer shelter to nesting birds and squirrels tending their young.

How apt is the comparison in Psalm 1 of a righteous man with a healthy, well-watered tree! I, too, want to grow like a strong, fruitful tree—withstanding every trial, always reaching deep for the water of the Word, ever lifting my gaze to reach toward the Son, and tirelessly spreading my arms wide to bless all those within my reach.

This post is part of the annual 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes Challenge, part of the Write 31 Days challenge with prompts from Five Minute Fridays. Find all my other challenge posts under the tag #Write31Days

Just Try #Write31Days Day 14

Another very late posting of a #Write31Days assignment. Even though I wrote it a few days ago, I still wanted to post this one and let y’all know I am still trying to keep up! My husband had last week off work, so I sort of took the week off from my normal routine, as well, and we had some good family time. But I didn’t do much writing as a result! Here’s to a new week and new possibilities!

“I can’t!” he wailed as his bike rolled to a stop, then drifted slowly back downhill into the waiting bumper—my foot. “Yes, you can, if you will just set your mind to it and try!”

This was the conversation we had several times last week while biking at the hilly campground where our family was staying for a few days. I wish I could say we were gently encouraging the whole time, but after hearing the mantra “I can’t!” whined in our ears a few hundred times, my husband and I definitely lost our cool more than once!

Thankfully, God doesn’t lose it with me when I grumble and complain, drag my feet and wimp out when I feel inadequate and decide “I can’t” do what’s i know He is calling me to do. Instead He is gracious, gentle, and patient beyond compare. He just picks me up, dusts me off and gives me another chance, saying “Try again, love. I know it’s hard for you, but I’m right here, and I won’t let you fall. Just try.”

And when I do, I find Him faithful, every time.

This post is part of the annual 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes Challenge, part of the Write 31 Days challenge with prompts from Five Minute Fridays. Find all my other challenge posts under the tag #Write31Days

Loosening My Grip, #Write31Days Day 7

  1. I never knew I had control issues until I became a parent. Up until that point, I had a pretty tight hold on my schedule and daily routines…when I slept and for how long, when I ate and what I did on the weekends. I was in control of the little details on my life, or so I thought. I planned out my days for smooth sailing, and other than little speed bumps in marriage or finances, things were pretty peaceful.

Enter those predictably unpredictable, dependent and demanding creatures better known as children…and not just any children, but infants! Infants who cried and begged to be fed or changed at the most inconvenient times… Infants who never slept at night but could fall asleep in the car five minutes from home, thereby rendering any attempts at getting them to nap again completely useless… Infants who could cry inconsolably about seemingly nothing, leaving me feeling completely helpless and, yes, out of control. No more nice, neat little weekend plans, no more quiet adult conversation over dinner, and certainly, no more sleeping 8 solid hours in a given night!

My 5 minutes are up, but I have so much more to say on this topic of control and parenting. So let’s just run with it….

You see, these little upsets in my daily routine were just the beginning. Now I have bigger kids who have more independence and responsibility, more room to make their own choices and their own mistakes. I can’t control their choices or their behavior any more than I could control whether or not they had a good night of sleep. Yes, I can guide them and teach them and give them consequences when they disobey or disrespect me. But I don’t control the outcome of these efforts. As much as I would like a neat little plan that says, “Do this and this and that, and your children will turn out to be model Christian citizens,” there is no such formula.

In fact, I am learning that the tighter I try to hold onto my expectations for the perfect day and try to control my children’s behavior, the more chaos and conflict ensue. Instead of trying to wrestle peace and joy into my days by tightening my grasp, I am finding that I must hold all things loosely and let God be the guide. I must release hold of my expectation and selfish desires so that He can fill my hands with His plans for me. And I must let go of the tight hold I want to keep on my children, handing them over to His care because He knows far better than I do how to mold and shape their hearts for His glory. It is a slow, difficult lesson for me, but I am beginning to learn to loosen my hold on control and let God give me what I really need—more of His grace.

This post is part of the annual 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes Challenge, part of the Write 31 Days challenge with prompts from Five Minute Fridays. Find all my other challenge posts under the tag #Write31Days