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Peace in Place of Performance

Culture demands conformity to a never satisfied machine while God imparts peace in place of performance.

The pressure is on isn’t it? Pressure to be all things to all people and to do all things for all people.

I hear momma’s everywhere singing an amen chorus in unison. We feel it right; intangible need to be at the top of our game in every area of life?

The expectation society places on women – well okay then - women place on women, has created a pressure cooker on the verge of imploding. The current of performance driven culture makes me nauseous.

When my husband Martial and I were first married about 8 years ago, I placed this crazy expectation upon myself to master domestic duties like it was nobody’s business. I threw myself into my job, working hard to earn more so we could reach some imaginary financial status we hadn’t even defined. I came home tired and wanting to rest, but the expectations to be the perfect home maker got to me and I’d spend an hour or two every night struggling in the kitchen to cook a meal we could stomach.

When our son Justice made his life debut, life got real, real fast. I was still working full-time, still struggling in the kitchen and on top of being wife of the year, now I had to be the mom of the year too.

The summer when Justice was one, I took him to swim class every week because that’s what you do with your baby in the summer right? It was such a challenge to sneak out of work early, race home, grab my son and his swim gear and get to class on time just so he could splash around and sing the wheels on the bus. We’d race back home, he’d eat a bar and some crackers on the way (the dinner of champions I know) and again I’d struggle to cook something worth eating. On those nights, Justice could barely keep his sleepy eyes open long enough to eat.  It was exhausting and I felt awful watching him struggle to eat, bathe and get to bed before he was beyond tired (and nobody wants to go there with toddlers, am I right or am I right?).

I don’t remember when it was I finally imploded and complained to my husband about never meeting the expectation to be wife and mom of the year and the frustration and exhaustion I felt as a result. I can however, assure you it was not one of my more becoming moments.

Have you been there? Maybe the pressure cooker you find yourself in looks different than mine but we all feel pressure to be and do more than we are and are capable of right?

I distinctly remember my husband graciously telling me he didn’t expect me to be wife and mom of the year. Sure, a nice home cooked meal is great, but if it caused me to feel depleted, I didn’t need to stress over it. We could figure out a new routine that didn’t cause me so much angst. I began to realize I set the bar high for myself based on what I thought he – and the rest of the world – expected of me. I had created these crazy expectations of myself I could never keep which only caused me to constantly feel like a disappointment and a failure.

See what I did there? I set an unrealistic expectation upon myself and when I couldn’t meet it, I labeled myself a domestic failure.

Lysa TerKeurst, - she’s so wise - talks about how easy it is for a line to turn into a lie to turn into a label that becomes a liability.

The line I heard was I needed to be a domestic goddess. After a treadmill marathon, accomplishing nothing but exhaustion and frustration, the line turned into a lie I bought into, seeking approval from my husband for an expectation I had placed upon myself without him even knowing. Because I couldn’t keep the pace, I labeled myself a failure. Had I kept running at this pace, burnout was inevitable. Insert ugly liabilities. Had the unrealistic expectation not been revealed and dealt with, it could have caused serious damage to my relationship with my husband and my son, and maybe even those around me outside our home.

There is a cultural shift taking place and more and more women are talking about the pressure cooker and beginning to release the valve. Thank goodness!

Last year, the very funny Jen Hatmaker released For the Love. The book opens with Jen admitting she has a ton of help caring for her family of 7 along with all her other responsibilities. It does really take a village to raise children. We cannot do it alone, nor were we meant to.

And the fabulous Shauna Niequist released Present Over Perfect, Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Life.

I’ll trade in my frantic for simple and soulful any day! Can I get a witness?

I’ve shared some of my frantic with you. What’s your frantic and where do you need simplicity and a refueled soul?

This past summer I didn’t take Justice to swim lessons. I just couldn’t fit it into our schedule. And this time around, I wasn’t interested in futile attempts to conform our lives and what works best for our family into a schedule that just didn’t work for us.

When it comes to cooking, I’ve discovered crockpot meals - genius - and preparing meals ahead of time which has saved me hours during the week. I have more time to spend with my family and a lot less unnecessary stress.

I have learned to identify our families values and more importantly, to hold these values at higher esteem than societal or self-inflicted expectations. Sometimes this means we don’t take swim lessons right now and I don’t cook dinner every night. Sometimes it means I order pizza. Gasp! I know! The horror! And guess what? We’re still alive! As it turns out, Justice and my husband love pizza. #winning

What are your non-negotiables? What values are worth more to you than your own expectations?

Because here’s the thing, when I read about the character of God in the Bible, I read a very different story of grace and rest and peace than the story I was writing for myself.

In his book, Barefoot Church, author Brandon Hatmaker says, "Being at peace with God means we can take a breath, relax, and stop performing." 

The Bible is the story of God with the main character entering the scene as a baby. And what I learn about this unexplainable God in reading His story is He is the God who created life and delighted in it by resting with it. Even going so far in His relentless pursuit to be with His beloved children He became a little baby and babies rest a lot.

It’s no surprise then that the most restful, peaceful, delightful part of my day, is spending time with my son Justice reading and playing while a prepped ahead meal cooks or bakes away in the kitchen.

My biggest non-negotiable is my tribe before all. And for me, I am most prepared to love and to give my family the best of me, when I am in a position to be loved and to find my worth, label and peace in the One who made me to rest with Him.

Here’s my charge to you. Read and rest in the passage below. It’s Gods’ story told so you would know and live your life resting in His unwavering love and adoration of you. His love does not deplete, not exhaust, not expire. His love fuels and empowers and uplifts.

As you read, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What does this passage say about the character of God?
  2. What does this passage mean?
  3. How does this passage relate to the larger story of God told throughout the Bible?
  4. How does this passage affect my life?

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

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I drink coffee, read books, and travel. I’ve been able to drink coffee and discuss books with friends all over the world, simply because someone built a bridge and I made it east of the Mississippi and beyond. For this reason, I love bridges.