Why You Can't Do Everything

I've been feeling stretched thin lately.

If there's one thing you should know about me it's that I have a hard time saying no. I like people, I like helping them and I also like people to like me. On top of all of this, I like a lot of stuff. I'm passionate about just about everything with exceptions to professional wrestling and bug collecting... but, yes, everything else...and I bet I could get really into bug collecting if I tried. Not wrestling...well maybe.

I digress.

Over and over again throughout this past week, the ideas of simplifying and focusing-in have popped up as themes.

Every time I'd turn on the radio it seemed like someone had just called in seconds before to share a word on finding one's calling and not becoming distracted. Songs upon songs, messages, devotionals and that annoying little voice in my head who I tend to attribute to the Holy Spirit (Read: annoying because He is usually nudging convicting me of things I'd rather ignore) each pointed to this same idea:
I am busy and I am actively distracting myself from what God has for me to do here and now.

The past few weeks I've had something on my calendar after work each and every day, sometimes more than one thing per night. Strategically stuffed, my calendar looks a lot like that closet in your house who's door you slowly open (or don't open) so as not to upset the haphazard chaos long as it all fits and the door closes, right?

Sunday's sermon at my church involved an emphasis on margin and its relation to being teachable. If we lack margin, our pastor said, we lack capacity to learn and be humbled. In time, this lack of capacity and margin translates to distraction and distraction works to keep us tangled in everything but what we are called to do.

Think about it.

A high school athlete, more often than not, cannot be both a basketball star and swim star in the same season. Although he/she may excel in each sport, and somehow make every game and meet, he/she will not be able to attend each and every practice held at the very same time on the very same day. And with every missed practice for one sport or the other, he/she limits his/her ability to grow and reach their full potential in either sport.

The same is true for each of us, athletic or not.

We cannot do everything. 

We cannot succeed at everything.

We cannot continue living our lives distracting ourselves from the fact that we believe ourselves to be our own God.

I think so often, because I don't know what it is that I'm called to, or even what I really really like to do, I create almost contingency plans for myself by just choosing to do everything that seems right or good or true "just in case" because I'm afraid that choosing one group/hobby/church/activity/class over another will somehow cause me to "miss it" or "mess up".

We don't have that kind of power.

My fixation on not "missing it" or "messing it up" has brought me to a place where I am trying to do everything and be the very best at it all because deep down I do not trust that the right thing, at the right time can fall into place without my "divine" acts of will.

We need to specialize. We need to focus in. Instead of spreading ourselves so thin that we're only half good (or not good at all) at a lot of things, we need to center our attention on the areas of our lives where we sense the deepest need, nudge or call to continue to grow and give back.

There are so many things that I want to do and accomplish this year. So many things that are good and wonderful and God-honoring.

And yet, "good" does not equal "right".

Sometimes we need to give up doing good things because they ultimately distract us from the right things.

What is the Lord calling you to give up? How could you create more margin in your life so that you can begin to grow in teachability, sensitivity and openness to what or where the Lord is calling you?

Although I tend to pack my schedule to the brim, some of you may struggle to add things. This is just the opposite side of the same coin.

For you, where are you being nudged to give of yourself, your time or your energy? How can you safeguard yourself from locking yourself away and be more open to saying yes?

To margin,

Day 30: Choosing to Give It All, One Moment at a Time

I would choose a leap year to do this thing.


One additional day.

A mentor of mine once said, "Steph, you can always do one more of anything. One more second, one more minute, one more day."

I can still remember the moment she told me that. It was my first year of teaching and we were sitting in the back corner of my classroom across from one another at my desk pushed into the corner.  I was 22, at the end of my rope and had proposed quitting for maybe the fifth time in a span of a few months through muffled, snotty tears.

You see. I had never done something so hard nor sacrificed so much in my entire life. I felt like a failure and I was tired, disillusioned and angry.

As an 8th grade middle school teacher in the inner city, I had entered a battlefield. Not only was my school so under-resourced that my co-workers and I needed to buy our own computer paper, many of my students had suffered in their short lives things I couldn't even imagine. Many came to school hungry, some could not read, a few were homeless. Others were without parents or had witnessed their parents' murder. A lot of my boys dabbled in gangs, and my girls dabbled in boys.

Along with all this hardship came defiance and behavior issues. I was called every name ever created to be an insult (at least circa 2009). Sometimes my worksheets and lesson plans were thrown across the room, along with chairs to mix things up. And, during my first week, I had a girl literally pummel another girl to the ground punching her head into my classroom's floor as I stood there bewildered and not knowing what to do.

Although all completely true (and I'm not even telling you the juiciest, craziest stories) my situation and relationships with my students didn't stay that way. Over time and as I earned street cred, I gleaned little by little their love and respect. Demeanors of the meanest mean girls in the 8th grade shifted. Attitudes changed. Hugs were given. Insults became less and less...all because in the end, I choose one more second, one more minute and one more day through the rest of the school year. I also choose them.

Despite all the positive change, that year sucked. Refinement often does. But, it's in the fire that we are made pure, and fire burns.

So do middle school girl glares.

- - - - -

The past 30 days have been some of the most joyful I can remember in a long time. I feel so alive and free...its amazing what a little bit of obeying God and denying yourself will do for you...

Don't get me wrong, over the last month I've definitely had moments of struggle and second guessing. Sundays, ironically, are the worst. Nearly every Sunday I struggle not to obsess over who I'll date next or if there's someone out there that will ever choose me that I actually like-like.

...Maybe its because of all the eligible single men I see at church every Sunday morning and the lack of other pretty, gosh darn spectacular single Jesus-loving gals fighting for their attention...(please read this with the most snark you can muster)

Enter my falling into the temptations of comparison and envy nearly each and every week.

I shared the story of taking one second, one minute and one day at a time because its where I'm at, and really you are too. Taking one moment at a time, especially at a time that proves to be difficult and disorienting, is all we can do and all we are called to do.

In addition to choosing to take one moment at a time in obedience and trust, however, is an even higher and more sacrificial calling, a calling that asks us to lose our life so that we may gain it. I fought tooth and nail in those early months of teaching my inner desire to quit. Every ounce of me, besides my pride, was all in on the idea. I had even secured a job at the Gander Mountain around the corner from my apartment (to which my roommate thought I was crazy...desperation does weird things as we've already discussed in blog post #1). In the end, I didn't give up because deep down inside I knew it wasn't about me, my comfort or what I wanted in that season of my life.

Jesus made a choice too, He died on the cross for each one of us. All of us. Every. single. one. He didn't back out because it was hard. He was insulted and spit upon and tortured and he chose it. He made the ultimate sacrifice by giving His life, His all, for us so that we may become heirs through His death and resurrection! Although others could not see it and did not understand, even his own disciples, Jesus knew better things were to come and better things awaited the world on the other side of his choice. (Galatians 3:29, 4:7...and the whole New Testament)

Through him we were given new life and a new purpose and invited into a process of knowing Him and being transformed from the inside out.

And unfortunately, a process is not one-and-done but one-after-the-other kind of thing.

After 30 days of learning and growing and being refined, I'm entering into March ready and excited for all that the Lord had for me as I continue to place my trust and faith in Him in this season he has called me to and to one I am choosing one moment at a time.

I leave you with this; It's the song of my heart these days. I pray it becomes yours as well.

"You can have it all, Lord.
Every part of my world.

Take this life and breathe on;
This heart that is now yours." 
"Have it All" Bethel Music c. 2016