We had 5 children in 7 years including a set of twins. Not one of our kids was a sleeper. We did not sleep through the night on a regular basis for 10 years! Sleep deprivation stinks. 🙂
When our twins (the last ones) were 6 weeks old we moved to a new state. I had no friends, no family nearby and no help. It was a hard, hard season.
Today all 5 of our kids are married and we have 21 grandchildren. I never imagined my life would turn out like this!
At different times over these years, I’ve felt like a failure, worried over a child, been frustrated with my husband, disappointed in my career, and wondered if anyone else felt like “this.”
And I’ve realized again and again that I can’t do it all. No one can.
Looking at Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook doesn’t help. Those people all look so perfect.
And I’m not.
What about you?
Are you feeling defeated, lonely, “less than,” confused, anxious or hopeless?
Let’s be honest. We can each feel these things no matter what season of life we are in.
It’s easy to feel stuck.
Where do we go for encouragement? How can we find perspective?
Now that I’m older (not old mind you!) I’ve learned a few things along the way which I hope will encourage you when you feel like you can’t do it all.
Here are 4 principles I hope will help when you feel overwhelmed:
1. See life in terms of Seasons.
Life has different seasons. Biological seasons: the single life, newlywed, that first child, the teen years, the empty nest, the retirement years. There are also seasons of loss: a dream that didn’t happen, a child, a spouse, a job, a health crisis.
Every season will have challenges, but each season will also have blessings unique to that season. It’s important to articulate the challenges — be honest about them. Instead of:
Everything’s fine; I’m just praising Jesus.”
I’m having a hard time with . . .”
Simply being honest about the challenges helps.
But then choose to focus on the blessings.
One of the challenges of the toddler years is the temper tantrums. However, one of the blessings of these years is the funny things toddlers say. When our daughter Susy saw the ocean for the first time her eyes grew large as she exclaimed, “Mommy, It’s too full, you need to let some of it out.”
Toddlers say the funniest things. It’s a blessing unique to this season. It’s not a blessing in the teen years. Teens don’t usually say funny things! (There are other blessings in the teen years.) When your little kids or grandkids say funny things pull out your phone, write what they say in your notes section with their name and date. This way you’ll remember it! It’ll make a great story later.
We can’t do everything in any one season. Sometimes we have to postpone to the next season something we’d really like to be doing now. This is wisdom.
No matter what season of parenting we are in each of us will often feel like we’ve ruined our child.
We have to remember:
My ability to ruin my child is not nearly as great as God’s power to redeem him (or her).
When we articulate the challenges but then choose to focus on the blessings, we’ll gain a fresh perspective on the season we are in at this moment.
2. Know your Priorities
If someone were to ask me, “What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your life?” I would not hesitate to say: knowing and attempting to live by God’s priorities. Jesus himself tells us His 2 great commandments are to love the Lord with all our heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37)
What does this look like?
It means making time daily to spend time in prayer and in the word of God. It may mean getting up 20 minutes earlier in the dark to allow our heavenly Father to fill us up for this day.
No matter what season of life we are in, there will always be things to pull us away from this sacred time. Read a Psalm each day. Ask God to reveal to you one word or phrase that is just for you for this day. Read Ephesians 1 and underline every word that describes God or Jesus. And then pray through your day and for your loved ones.
I have found it all too easy to try to do life on my own, neglecting my time with the Father. After a few days I become a total grump or worse. I can’t do “it.” I desperately need Him. And He’s always glad when I return to Him, ask His forgiveness which He generously gives, and lean once again on His power through the Holy Spirit to equip and to guide me.
The second part of the great commandment is loving our neighbor. If we are married our closest neighbor is our husband. It’s all too easy in the stresses of life to let our marriage relationship slide. We think, I’ll work on my marriage when life calms down. But life never calms down.
We have to be intentional in working on our marriage at every season. It’s hardest when you have little kids, busy careers, and responsibilities for older parents. However, our marriage is either growing or slowly dying. It will not remain static. Set aside time each week or every other week for a date. This is not a time to discuss an issue but to have fun. Pray for laughter in your marriage. Don’t give in to being housemates.
For more marriage encouragement, check out 8 Things to Do When You Really Don’t Like Your Husband Very Much.
3. Be open to something new.
There have been many times in my life in which I have felt stuck and overwhelmed. I haven’t sensed God answering my prayers about an issue. Instead, only silence answers back. On one such occasion I discovered Jeremiah 33:3. Call unto me and I will show you great and mighty things that you do not know.
As I let go of a current issue which God doesn’t seem to be answering, I ask him to show me something new, something different, something “other.”
Once I was overwhelmed with worry for one of my nearly adult children. The more I prayed the more my concerns grew. My imagination was out of control. Finally, I cried out, Lord help.
Two words came to me which were unmistakably from Him. Two words which were to change my life. They were, “Remember Me.” What I began to see was that I had let my issue — worry over a child — become bigger in my head than my God. I needed to focus more on Him and to begin to discover in a fresh new way how big He was.
I call this the “principle of the other.” Sometimes God has something “other” He wants to reveal to us. Something that may not have anything to do with our current issue.
Be open to God’s revealing to you something fresh, something other!
4. Distinguish between the world’s values and God’s values.
It’s so easy to let our identity become wrapped up in our accomplishments. My “list” can easily become my idol. If I check things off, I feel good about myself. If I don’t, I become discouraged.
There’s nothing wrong with accomplishing things. Or checking items off our list. However, each of us must remember:
God loves me not because of what I do or don’t do but simply because I belong to him.
Picture a train. There are 2 tracks for the train to run on. They run side by side and both are necessary. They are merely different. I call these tracks Natural Growth and Spiritual Growth. Neither is better; both are necessary for a train to run and for living in this world.
Natural growth involves becoming independent. Teaching our kids to clean their rooms, make their lunches, and balance a bank account. Our goal is to raise independent, confident adults who will make a positive contribution to society. We want them to make progress and succeed. This is important.
Spiritual growth on the other hand is about becoming dependent. Of realizing more and more how much we need God. He loves it when we come to the place in which we say, “I can’t do this Lord.” I picture Him responding, “That’s right! You need to rely on me!”
We get ourselves in to a mess when we apply the principles of Natural Growth to Spiritual Growth. I try harder (Natural growth). I surrender and ask Him to grow me up. (Spiritual growth).
Another way to express this is to see Natural growth as involving Progress and Product. Whereas Spiritual growth means Process and Presence.
Our heavenly Father is more concerned about what we are learning in the process of growth than conquering or succeeding (product). He most desires that we experience His Presence in our growth.
Natural Growth = progress and product
Spiritual Growth = process and presence
Understanding these 2 parallel tracks will give us a more balanced perspective on Growth.
For more on this, read What I Had Wrong About Spiritual Growth.
The older I get, the more important the track of Spiritual Growth becomes. There are many blessings in getting older: the freedom from the pressures of success, a deepening recognition of God’s faithfulness in the past, a clarity of what really matters, and a more acute awareness of the blessings of each day.
“Faithful is He who calls you; He (not you!) will bring it to pass.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24.
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