When I taught AP Biology, I used to tell my students to hold on tight because getting through everything we needed to tackle in one school year was like drinking water out of a fire hydrant. Sure, you’ll get a drink, but because it’s rushing at you, it’s going to hurt since it’s coming at you so fast. They signed up for this class, after all…it wasn’t forced on them. Covering the same material as a year-long freshman level college biology course, they said yes because they wanted to learn about everything biology. There was even a chance to jump ship before we took off running but most of them decided to stay because they loved it and felt like it was what they were supposed to be doing.
I feel that way about my life right now. I am doing what I feel like I’m called to do with the people I love but some days I feel like I’m drowning…or it just plain hurts. Don’t get me wrong, I do have some downtime (after all, I am writing this blog post). But I find it comes in fits and starts here and there and I really only get everything done if I stay up too late or get up too early. What’s a gal to do, especially when I am a go-getter at heart?
At the coaches’ meeting at the beginning of a very large track and field invitational last spring, the meet director, an amazing coach whom cancer took this summer, reminded everyone that we are to emphasize the following priorities to our high school athletes: family/citizenship first, academics second, and athletics third. I remind my athletes that they are student-athletes, in that order.
When was the last time I stopped and asked myself what priorities I’m emphasizing in my own life and how they reflect who I say I am?
Choices, saying no, and how humility [or lack thereof] runs the show
If you looked at how I spend my time from a strictly objective viewpoint, you’d probably say I’m a mom, high school sports coach, and wife (in that order). I’m not sure that’s what I want you to say, however.
Jen Hatmaker, author of For The Love, recently relayed some advice her agent gives her every time she’s faced with a choice when it comes to priorities (read the entire post on Facebook here):
“If it’s not a HE** YES, then it’s a no.”
Perhaps that’s a fairly obvious way to look at things, but I’m among the portion of [crazy] people who say yes to just about everything that I think I could be good at. Which, unfortunately, is too many things because I have a problem of thinking too highly of myself plus I’m overly enthusiastic about making things work even if they seem ridiculous or outside of my skill set. And I like to do lots of things. Ugh.
The rest of her thoughts, however, are what really stopped me cold.
So that medium yes, that I-feel-like-should yes, that guilty yes, that coerced yes, that I-actually-hate-this-thing yes, that I-guess-so yes, that who-else-will-do-it yes, that careless yes, that default yes, that resentful yes, that I-probably-shouldn’t-but-struggle-with-boundaries yes? Jen Hatmaker
Underlined and bolded are the ones I struggle with most. While I don’t think I struggle with guilty yesses, I know that I acquiese to the I-feel-like-I-shoulds and the struggle with boundaries. I especially have trouble with the things that I know I am good at and therefore I assume no one else could possibly fill that void should I choose to stop whatever that is.
Would you believe it if I told you that the world will not stop turning if you don’t _______ , _______ , or _______ ? If you choose to stop ______ing, your life wouldn’t fall apart? When, at the end of your contract/project/calendar year/designated stopping point, you quit that job/ended that friendship/dropped out of that commitment/etc, you’d actually feel better instead of worse?
That paragraph above? Them’s the words I need to ruminate on…I’m preaching to myself. I might just be the world’s worst procrastinator when it comes to cutting things out of my life. This problem is exponentially compounded by the fact that I quickly and easily take on too many things. Which means I need help making some decisions.
How to decide: questions to determine your purpose
Last spring, I came across a set of questions by Tricia Goyer, a contributor to The Better Mom. She wrote out 15 prompts to really get you to dig into your purpose in life, which, naturally should help you figure out whether or not what you’re spending your time doing is really worth it. I’ve copied a few below that struck me the hardest (get them all here).
If I had a magic eraser, what is one thing I’d take off my schedule tomorrow? Uh, a lot of things, but I think the bigger point of this question is what taking things off my schedule free me up to do?
What’s one thing has God asked me to do that I’m too scared to try? I honestly think the answer to this question is to take things off my plate. This question is unfortunately tied to logistical issues…or perhaps that is just my excuse to not have to answer it…
What unique group of people do I feel called to share the good news of Jesus with in everyday life? I think I know the answer to this question but this one catches me at the junction of better and best.
What can God do that I can’t concerning my purpose? I have a terrible control problem. “Let go and let God” is not something I know how to do. I know that I need to be willing to let Him take care of the things I can’t yet I someone always try to make it happen on my own.
How is God glorified when I’m following my purpose? This is the ultimate point, right? That others may see Jesus through who I am on this earth to be.
How will following my purpose force me to trust God more? See answer 2 questions back.
What is God asking me to do TODAY? Ah, the age old question. Next section, please. At least then I can put off doing something about it for another paragraph or two…
To clarify the way, I am purposefully not currently elaborating on my personal choices because that’s not the point of this blog post and it’s not something I want to broadcast until I feel settled with where God is leading me.
Where to go from here
The rest of Jen Hatmaker’s post had more guidance on making decisions. Part of the reason I love her is how real she writes. It’s like we’re in her l
iving room kitchen chatting while kids are everywhere doing their thing(s). You know, the real real-life conversations you have when you don’t realize you’re having them. She expanded upon her earlier thoughts by sharing the following:
Now, the things that make your heart race, your blood pump, the fire in your belly burn, your gifts to leap to life, and keep your family and home healthy and strong…the he** yeses? ALL IN, BABY.
I want to be all in. I want to jump in – or stay in – with both feet. None of the wishy-washy, I hope I’m doing the right thing nonsense. No regrets this time next year of removing something from my life or wishing I had added something, even if that something is less time doing things I’m currently doing.
While I didn’t share all my answers here, I have responded to all 15 of Tricia’s questions. Now to keep praying over them, pouring my heart into them, and listening with intensity and tenacity for God’s answer. Be it a direct mandate to do/stop doing/start something or silence on His part giving me the space to decide, my focus the rest of this month will be to zero in on the task of defining my purpose.
Friends, I hope you’re encouraged. I hope you take this as a spurring on to follow Jesus in your everyday life. I’d love to hear how answering those 15 questions goes for you. Email me or comment below. Blessings to you in this difficult yet important and fulfilling journey of finding your purpose.