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.

 

My grandfather’s bucket list.

When I was pregnant with my first, my grandfather shyly asked me if he could attend the birth. So shyly, in fact, he went through my mom.

Papa would really like to be there when Ames is born. He’ll stay wherever you put him, but he’s never seen a baby be born. Not even his own kids. You know they didn’t allow it back then.

I cannot even imagine what it would feel like to know my husband was out on the golf course smoking cigars while I sweated and grunted and bellowed a baby out into the world. Thank God I had him right there with me all three times for all four babies. Anyway, I told my mom that OF COURSE Papa could be at the birth. We had already announced we’d name our son after him, so it was only fitting.

I remember sitting on the birthing ball twenty-some-odd hours in. I was naked and nobody could keep me dressed to save a life. I’d yelled for my dad to be brought in, and he sat obediently and silently in the corner with a newspaper up, giving me an approving nod every now and then when I demanded eye contact. What can I say? I had some serious Daddy issues growing up.

But here’s what else I remember – my Papa. Being escorted in, after the midwives whispered that my mom might want to get him if he didn’t want to miss it. At this point, I’d lost count of how many adults were in a room cheering for me while I sat on a birthing ball, and then a birthing stool… naked. Tired, sweaty, swollen, sore. Defeated, as the night dragged on and the clock struck three and my son still hadn’t come yet.

But my Papa. Standing in the doorway, one fist in the air, smiling ear to ear with tears in his eyes. He had waited all night for this. He had waited his whole life for this. He quietly repeated himself over and over as Ames arrived into my hands.

Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

Fast forward six years. Ames had made the decision to follow Jesus a year prior, but the opportunity had come for him to be baptized. My grandparents faithfully made plans to attend, my mom scheduled to drive them down for the week. One night at dinner, we asked Papa if he had ever participated in a baptism. Declaring he hadn’t, we asked if he’d like to baptize Ames. He just smiled with an OF COURSE like the one I’d given him years ago.

Last night, I got to experience birth from a different angle. I stood outside the tub while my grandfather gingerly backed into the water to join my son. He stood patiently and followed the pastor’s cues, and then he helped lower my boy into the water and bring him back up again.

There he was again, smiling ear to ear with tears in his eyes. He had waited all day for this. He had waited his whole life for this. And don’t you know there was a fist in the air when it was all said and done, with a quiet but sure response to the celebration happening around him.

Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.