Empty. Depleted. Exhausted. Uninspired.
This is how I started 2020.
That week in between Christmas and New Year’s is usually like second Christmas for me. My wing 1 takes over, and you can find me taking down all the Christmas decor literally the day after Christmas, going full Marie Kondo on my house, taking out my planner for work, planner for homeschool, putting up my wall calendar and color coding everything like a real life Leslie Knope. I love a new beginning. I love reflecting on the past year, celebrating the wins, remembering the adventures, seeing how we persevered, leaving behind what we don’t need and taking with us the lessons that make us better. I love setting goals, looking ahead, dreaming of the future and putting my hopes on the line.
But that did not happen this year, because I felt like I had literally nothing left in me. Despite all my best efforts, I could not refill my cup fast enough. For the past two years, I have poured myself out through writing. I have had to say no and step back from serving in other ways I enjoy because I know that for this season, this is the way in which I am to serve. I have had to be very intentional with my time, and any “extra” time that I’ve had, I have spent pouring into this work-creating content that helps others. That has meant saying no to things like dinner or drinks or coffee with friends, sometimes saying no to weekend outings, showers, volunteering, so that I can say yes to this work (or events that get my work out there). And I don’t regret it one bit, because I know that these yeses were the right ones. It wasn’t my plan to even write two books, much less write two back to back.
Both at the end of 2018 and the end of 2019, I finished books and got them published. Hooray, right? But here’s what most people don’t know: Yes it feels good to have accomplished something, but it’s also absolutely emptying and terrifying emotionally, especially when you are writing about your own experiences. It’s done, but…the success of it is then in the hands of other people. It’s dependent on other people’s opinions. They’ll either love it and recommend it, or hate it and tell people not to purchase it. It took me an entire year to write Moving Mountains. Just to write it. Then editing phases, then cover design, then creating a launch team, then coming up with a marketing plan and having to sell myself, which the internet world loves to hate on and make fun of and roll their eyes at. There’s not a stopping point, and it’s easy for that to come to a breaking point.
I sadly didn’t enjoy my most favorite time of year this year. I was so uninspired, I didn’t know how to show up and serve like I enjoy doing. I didn’t have the drive to plan. I didn’t have the motivation to think ahead. All of January I fought the feeling that I was “behind.” Even though our schedule was full, all of my calendars were still empty. I felt like I was “behind” in every part of my life. I felt like I was “behind” at keeping up with my home. I just couldn’t seem to catch up whether it was laundry, meal planning, or finally organizing that closet so that I could actually function in another part of my life that I felt “behind” in-homeschooling. I had tried to plan, even just simply, and two weeks into the year it wasn’t working and I had to adjust. I most definitely felt “behind” in my work. I had zero inspiration to write on this blog, I had zero motivation to show up online, I didn’t even want to promote my book because it just felt too raw. We didn’t hit the financial goal we wanted and had hoped and prayed for and worked incredibly hard to get at the end of 2019, so I felt like we were “behind” in our finances. And because I felt “behind” in all these aspects and more, I believed the lie that I wasn’t serving well-not my family, not my people who choose to follow me online and show up in this space to be encouraged or learn, not my friends. And I hated that feeling. And a common thought that rolled through my head multiple times on a daily basis was this: I hate starting off the year behind.
All this “new year, new decade,” stuff didn’t help that thought, and those kinds of “how you start your year…” sentiments also fed the thought trolling through my mind. I was so angry at myself, at the Lord because we were working hard, doing what we were supposed to be doing, asking Him to move and wound up disappointed. At one point I was praying angrily about being “behind,” and felt the gentle push back of the Spirit say, “Behind according to who?”
Who’s success rate?
And I sat there still and quiet, because I knew the answers.
My success rate.
And under our current culture’s versions.
Since I stay home, I should manage my time better so that my house looks and functions in a certain rhythm. Since I create and work from home, I should be making lots of money because I should always “hustle” (I have come to loathe this word by the way). I should be doing more, creating more, making more. I already battle with measuring my worth based on what I do for others, partly because I’m wired to be a helper, a gift I believe, but also partly because that’s the message this culture is sending right now. The more you do the more worth you have.
I also recognize that the standards I set for myself are often far greater than what I would ever expect someone else in my position to do. It’s great to have the drive to get things done, but it’s not great to do it at the expense of your physical or emotional health.
So I took a deep breath, and realized that I am only behind because I believe myself to be, under standards that were not the right ones to be measuring myself up against. It was ok for me to back off and rest. It was ok for me to feel uninspired for a minute, and to let my brain take a break. I didn’t have to involve myself in every little thing. If I chose to rest, which I should because it’s a command in Scripture that God himself modeled even though He doesn’t need to rest, I wouldn’t fall behind. I wouldn’t be missing out on anything. I would be better and show up better because of it.
So, I let this feeling of being “behind” go. Up until the past week or so, the two hours I get five days a week while Kai is at gymnastics, I didn’t do any work. I grabbed a cup of coffee, and I read a book. Or watched a show. Or listened to a Disney podcast. Or journaled. Or talked on the phone with a friend. But I didn’t worry about this blog, or promoting my books, or people’s thoughts about me promoting my books, or planning out social media content, or joining conversations online, or any of it. After Kai went to bed, I would get on my yoga mat (46 days and counting), take a hot bath, read or do whatever I wanted, and go to bed at a decent hour. I processed what had happened and how I felt. I worked on not feeling guilty about taking this time. And guess what?
Clarity came. Inspiration arrived. Healthy rhythm was found. Joy was restored. Cup was filled. Because when you choose to rest, you choose to trust Him, and you choose to accept that what He has for you is better.
Maybe you can resonate with this, and if you do I would encourage you the next time that sneaky feeling of being “behind” comes up, to remember what the Spirit asked me and then ask yourself, “Behind according to who?” Our plans will always get interrupted and will never go exactly the way we want them. Our response to that is critical.
I’ll leave you with this beautiful quote from one of my favorite books, Teaching From Rest:
“Through a restful diligence we work at the right things in the right way at the right time-as God gives us that wisdom.”
Image credits: Charity Clayton Photography