Fumbling for hope.

Last week’s events have left me in an utterly sad place. I’m not black, I don’t have family in law enforcement, and I’ve never lost a relative to gun violence. It’s tempting to feel as if it’s not my place to mourn in such a way that feels like I can’t catch my breath and my heart might fall out of my body.

But that’s the way it feels. This is my country, too. These are my people. And I’m trained for it. I know how to hurt with the hurting. I’m not easily shocked or rattled by tragedy. And more than all of that, this is the burden God’s given me.

I don’t get riled up about every issue that comes across my screen, and I’m usually unwilling to engage in dialogue on subjects that make Christians famous – or infamous. It’s not that I feel disdain for people passionate about all of the things, but it just doesn’t feel effective. I can’t afford to get distracted. Love God, love people. Love God, love people.

But racial reconciliation? This is a flag I’ll wave even when my arms get tired. This is a hill upon which I’m willing to die. This is a legacy I’d like to leave my children, a fiery torch I hope to pass. This is one of many ways I want to love God, and love people. And so on I’ll trudge. One day at a time. Slowly, surely, intentionally, and prayerfully.

I am grateful for a church willing to wade into the mess this morning, helping me fumble for hope and throwing me a lifeline in 2 Corinthians 1. He HAS delivered us, and He WILL delivered us. I am relieved at the idea of a God who is never surprised, a God who still holds the world in his hands while it bleeds.

Pick your spheres.

There are only so many hours, lunches, hard conversations, pep talks, social media follows, and text messages to go around. There’s only so much of my heart left after pouring into a vibrant life with my family and a best friend or two. How do you fit it all in? The answer is, I don’t.

I do absolutely pick and choose, though. I weigh the cost. I try to get the best bang for my buck when it comes to relationships, prioritizing the ones that bring God the most glory and me the most good. What’s the point in spinning your wheels to impress a random coworker about whom you know nothing, or maintain a superficial (potentially unhealthy) friendship with someone who sits near you in class? If it’s worth it, by all means, go for it. If you feel called to those people, do the work for those people. But I’ve lived to see the beauty of spheres, and I’m not going back.

You see, God gives us these spheres of influence, these circles of people with whom we share orbits and routines and life events. When we bump up against these people, we make an impact. And the best part is, we get to listen to the Lord’s voice and then choose our spheres based on his leading.

So although I spend time with a certain group of people at work and certainly have an opportunity to leverage my influence for their good, they shouldn’t be getting the bulk of my time and energy right now. While I work to keep peace with them and share Jesus and a laugh with them when I can, God hasn’t asked me to give those folks a minute more than the time we spend working together. And I know because I asked him. And he spoke very clearly to me about where to leave it on the field this season.

These days, I throw everything I’ve got towards the students I lead – specifically, 11th grade girls. And by extension, that sphere includes their parents, their siblings and friends and boyfriends, and the beautiful adults I serve alongside. This group holds the souls I cherish and pray for daily. These are the ring tones that can get me to pick up my phone at any hour of the day or night. These tender hearts take up the blocks of time I could be spending at happy hour with coworkers or just laying around with my husband and teenagers watching Netflix. These girls are the ones who make my heart ache, the ones for whom I carry a simple but heavy burden… to make sure they know that they are seen, known, and loved.

You’re right. There are only so many hours in the day. We all carry full plates. The question is, though, are we filling them up with the right stuff? Because I’ve done the math. There’s actually quite a bit of free time and heart space up for grabs. You just gotta pick your spheres. The next daughter of the King who asks me how I do it all might get a little too much eye contact and a little much pep talk.

Because the answer is simple. I hold it all up to the Lord. And then I ask him what he wants me to do with it all. And then I ask him to help me fit it in. And he does, every single time.

On working from rest and approval.

Working FROM a place of rest and approval, (instead of working FOR them both) is the most crucial lifestyle change I’ve made to date. Shout-out to Jesus’ time on earth for showing me how it’s done, and to the Connolly fam for showing me that it’s possible and worthwhile thousands of years later.

I posted the above to my Instagram account this week and received some really good questions. What does that look like? How do I incorporate this idea into daily living? Any logistical tips? I’m not sure what this blog is for if not good old-fashioned diary-keeping, so I’m just going to freestyle this out a bit.

Working from a place of rest and approval takes time. I’ve been consciously living this way for exactly two years now, and I’m just now able to look up and see the fruit. I mean, I’m sure it was there long before. But I feel like I’m just now able to see HOW unhealthy I was before, and HOW much the Lord has healed me.

Working from a place of rest and approval takes effort. I’ve put energy into creating margin and enforcing boundaries. I’ve said no to a lot so that I could yes to a few things that matter right now. I’ve put down my pride and asked people to speak wisdom to me. I’ve accepted the fact that I need more discipline in my life, and I’ve learned to appreciate it once I invited it in.

To learn the basics of working from rest and approval, we must look to Jesus. When I study that man’s life on earth, I do not see balance. I see a man who walked a lot and slept a little. I see a man who worked when he was supposed to rest, and a man who spoke up, very abruptly at times, when he needed to be alone. I may not see the world’s definition of the balance between work and rest when I study the gospels, but I very clearly see Jesus doing one thing, over and over. I see him looking to the Father.

I see Jesus pausing, reading, praising, whispering, writing in the sand, staring at the heavens, challenging, obeying. I see him in constant communion with with his dad, throughout the entirety of his life here. I see him praying. I see him abiding. Because he knew whose he was and what he was doing. He was on mission.

A focus like the one that took Jesus to the cross must have made his life feel pretty cut and dry. I’ll let this in, I’ll cut that out, I’ve got plenty of time for this, no time for that, here’s when I push, here’s when I rest. And if Christ is in us, if we are made in God’s image and vessels of his spirit, then why can’t we ask God for clarity like that?

So that’s exactly what I did. I asked God to show me who I am and what I mean to him. I asked him for ideas on how to live that out in a way that brings him some serious glory and me some serious good. I asked him to show me a woman who was already on a similar mission, so that I might learn from her and spur her on in return. And he didn’t fail me.

He showed me new parts of my design that I’d been ignoring or denying. I learned that my body requires more sleep than my husband’s. I learned that a ritualized skin care regimen slows me down at the end of the day and gives me some order, peace, and time to reflect. I learned that as an introvert, I’m at my absolute best, most whole self when I have a few minutes of alone time each day. I learned that I’m a leader and a communicator, born to speak life into a lot of hearts over a lot of years. He broke off shame and spoke freedom.

He showed me my purpose for the foreseeable future. He told me to read more of his words than I have in my entire life. He asked me to show so much grace to my husband that it makes me want to scratch my head and second-guess it all sometimes. He showed me the power that lies in the relationships forged with my children. He gave me a team of women to lead and asked me to lead only them for awhile. He helped me fall back in love with nursing, just in case it’s the only career he approves for the next decade. He broke off bitterness and spoke blessed assurance.

He gave me a sister. Jess and Nick give the best working-from-rest talk I’ve ever heard. Ask them about the pendulum illustration sometime. Jess and Hayley just finished writing one of the most beautiful, tactical arguments for a woman’s identity in Christ that I’ve ever read. Jess is the friend who grabs my face and reminds me whose I am and what I’m doing. And when I can’t answer or I can’t agree with her, she holds my arms up while I hear from the Lord again.

So that’s what it means to me, to work from rest and approval. I belong to Jesus. I’m precious in his sight. I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. I’m uniquely equipped for such a time as this, a purpose and mission made just for me. The more time I spend with him, in his word and on my yoga mat and in discussions with my husband about God’s character, the more cut and dry my life feels. Cut and dry, in the best way.

And so I push. I press on. I march. I accept and appreciate and honor and protect the details he’s placed in me, the ones that require a little extra attention and time and space. I spend three hours in a hair salon twice a year. I go on date nights even when I don’t want to, and sometimes I decline playdates on behalf of my children who can’t say no yet. I turn off my work phone at 5:01pm when I could easily go until 7pm. I press the FaceTime button when I’d rather text with Jess, and I invite her to take a hard look and speak life and truth to me.

And lo and behold, everything fits. Nothing feels forced or broken or burnt out. My life feels more peaceful and joyful than ever. There are hard days and loud voices and tears, but most days all I’ve got is praise. Thanks, God. And I count some more fruit.