the breaking and the clean up

Thunder’s growl begins to fade as I settle in against the pillows on my bed. The desire to settle in among blankets and drink a cup of hot tea is rare in Arkansas summers, but our air conditioning has tricked me into thinking this weather is “cozy.” I know I will feel differently tomorrow when all that moisture is hanging around in the air, wrapping me in its unwelcome embrace, but for right now this moment finds me content.

A welcome change from the past couple of days.

With my staff team on Cru’s Summer Missions project in Juneau, AK, we did a staff development lesson on StrengthsFinder, and I was surprised that one of my top five was “responsibility.” Not that I think I mishandle responsibility, but it surprised me that it was so high on the list. However, as I look back at this week, I see how it fits in.

Your Responsibility theme forces you to take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and whether large or small, you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion.

So that explains my tears yesterday afternoon, the overwhelming feelings of anxiousness, the slow deep breaths I am forcing myself to take. I over-committed myself on responsibilities and freaked when I wasn’t accomplishing them all – even though all of the responsibilities were things I promised only to myself. No one else expected me to complete my list of tasks this week, not even Eric, who has been out of town but encouraging me to take things more slowly this summer.

Yet the dishes filled the sink, the laundry taunted me from its dirty pile in our closet, and the stack of things needed to still be hung on the walls kept popping up in my mind. That little red icon on my phone reminded me that I had several unread e-mails, and a desire to write more and read more this week were unfulfilled.

I hung a shelf in our bedroom today – a cheap one from Target, one of those “floating shelves” that looks so easy to hang thanks to brackets and grooves and several screws. I found Eric’s level and carefully measured, double-checking before setting screws in drywall. I went to attach the shelf to the wall, laid the level on, and found that it was still straight! Rejoicing, I sorted through unused decorations and decided on a frame holding our wedding vows and a pretty candle. It seemed like it needed one more object, though, so I grabbed my copy of Gone With The Wind as the final touch… and that’s when the whole thing tumped over. The crash coincided with a clap of thunder as glass from the frame shot everywhere, and I couldn’t help but regret that one last addition.

I think that’s my tendency too often – to want to add one more thing. Maybe not even just want, but to have this crazy urge to have to add one more thing. Then I can’t handle everything, so it’s not just the last task that falls but it’s everything because I can’t bear all of the weight.

I think I have felt like more of a failure working from home than I did when I worked 40 hours a week outside of the home. When I was gone all day, I found myself not caring so much whether the dishes were promptly cleaned and put away. I didn’t expect that dinner would be ready by 6 p.m., and I understood that laundry would most likely only happen on weekends. But now that I create my own schedule and manage myself in a sense, I think I should be able to do it all. I put this enormous sense of pressure on myself to do it all and to “earn” the right to continue to work from home, because I do love the flexibility of my schedule and the opportunities I have been given this summer.

Yet I don’t want to get into a habit of prioritizing efficiency over effectiveness. I don’t want the measure of success to be how much I accomplished in a day so I have to limit my time building relationships with people or investing in my personal walk with the Lord. I want to be present in the day and ready to make changes to my plans when good things come up – or when bad things come up and the Lord is telling me to practice surrender and practice rest in Him because of who He is, not because of how I have earned His rest.

Truth be told, none of us can earn His rest. It’s a gift, and I want to stop looking at my life as something to achieve and conquer. I want to be grateful for the responsibilities He has given me and not see how I can push my limit of what I can balance, each time competing with myself to add more and more to my load.

The shelf was fine with just the two items, and now I have to sweep and start over. Thank goodness the shelf didn’t break.

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