I’ve been busy. So busy. Too busy.
But I liked it.
Until I didn’t like it.
On a particularly rough day – when one of my many commitments took more time than I had to give – I put my kids down for their naps and sat at my computer. I perused Facebook and noticed many friends had shared a video. Out of curiosity, I checked it out.
I immediately closed my laptop. The part when Joanna talks about hearing God’s voice – that’s what spoke to me. In an instant, I realized I’d been too busy… for I don’t know how long… to hear God’s voice.
I rushed to the kitchen and grabbed a pad of paper, about the size of post-it notes. I looked for a pen, but all I could find was a crayon. I started writing one thing on every piece of paper that filled my time: meal planning, small group, friendships, social media, MOPS, MOPS leadership, my PR clients, my relationship with my parents, my in-laws, I wrote M-O-M on three sheets, W-I-F-E on four and J-E-S-U-S on five – I also added teaching, gym, idle time on my phone, photography (my favorite hobby), etc. As I completed each sheet, I piled them up on my dining room centerpiece – an overturned wine box. Once I was done, I stood and looked down at the cluttered mess.
Then, I pulled out the sheets that took the most time – and put them on top. Quickly, I noticed things like – my health, gym, photography, quiet time, etc… were at the bottom of the pile – unseen.
All of the things on the top were good, GREAT things! I was using my time well. I was serving my church, my friends, my family. But it was now clear: I simply could not fit it all in any longer.
I began to pray.
I prayed God would reveal to me what needed to go.
One of the GOOD things that commanded most of time was my leadership position at my MOPS group. I was the director of publicity and communications. My job spanned spearheading an ambitious publicity campaign to pulling together PowerPoint slides for our meetings. At times, I worked 40-50 hours/week on it. I didn’t mind one bit! I loved serving that group of women and God was rewarding my toil. During my tenure, our group grew to be one of the largest MOPS groups in the world with more than 200 moms to kids under the age of five. Moms were changing the way they parented their children – for the better. They were learning to become better wives. Some were even making decisions to believe in Christ. Incredible work, rewarding work.
There is a “however.”
All of that work was taking a toll. A toll on my family, on my marriage, on my sanity. Jason had been carefully broaching the topic of my stepping down for six months, but I wouldn’t hear it. I loved it too much and for GOOD reasons. I searched my heart for WHY I served at MOPS… and I only came up with good, Godly reasons. One was the relationships I shared with the other women on our CORE leadership team.
I’ve served on many leadership teams and this is BY FAR the best group I have ever worked with. With all women, all leaders, mostly type-A – you would think there would be some communication issues, gossip or bickering, but there was none of that. Each of these gals is operating in her God-given sweet spot. We all complement each other, help each other and spur one another on to great things. I cherished my working relationship with each of them and the amount of time we spent together on CORE. I was not going to give that up. No way.
Then, Stephanie Flies moved to Minnesota.
Steph is one of my dearest friends. While I was overjoyed for her family and the opportunities this move provided for them, I was devastated to lose face-time with my friend.
A funny thing happened after she moved… We got closer.
Our phone conversations/texts/FaceTime dates went deeper than ever. We were exchanging hand-written letters, packages. We were both INTENTIONAL with our friendship. We both committed to making it work despite the miles and somehow that spurred us into a deeper relationship.
I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised.
The Lord reminded my of this when I listed my friendships on the CORE team as a primary reason I wanted to keep that commitment.
I realized if any of the other gals decided to leave, I would still pursue friendship with them. So, that point became moot. I could not hold onto MOPS CORE team because of my relationships with these other gals.
So, naturally, I moved on to my next reason: service. I’ve been a Christian a long time, 33 years. Over that time, I’ve realized God’s blessed me with certain gifts and abilities that He can use in His church. So, wherever I’ve attended church, I’ve made it a point to not just sit in the pew, tithe, and listen to the teaching – I’ve also found areas where I can serve. MOPS CORE was clearly a major way I was serving my church. I was not planning to walk away from that.
For the first time in my soul-searching journey to find what I could sacrifice from my mountain of commitments, I heard God’s voice.
“When you serve your family, you serve Me.”
That stung a bit. Was that really all God needed me to do? I still wasn’t sure, so I sought counsel. From one of the wisest people I know, my dad.
I called him and asked him to convince me (please) to stay on CORE. To not give up this huge commitment that had become such a part of my everyday life. He gave it a valiant effort, but by the end of our conversation, he told me it was time to go.
“Is that a suggestion you want to think about for 24 hours and get back to me?” I asked.
“No. It’s time to go,” my dad definitively replied.
He suggested I “rotate off” for a year. He used the example of the elder board at our church, which he has served on. The elders serve two year terms, then they are required to rotate off for one year to be eligible to serve again. While that can interrupt the rhythm of a board that’s working well, it does prevent burnout and inspire more people to serve.
I’d done CORE for two years. I could resonate with the concept of rotating off for a year for the same reasons – prevent burnout for me, and provide opportunity for other gals to serve.
So, a decision was made.
Not a decision I was happy about or even 100% comfortable with. But, to me, it was clear. To create space in my crowded world, CORE Team had to go.
Within a few days, our MOPS leader – an incredible woman with enough passion to electrify a small nation – was sitting at my dining room table. I’d invited her over for lunch to “catch up.” But she knows me too well.
“Why am I really here?” Tracy said simply, looking me straight in the eye.
I meekly and systematically walked her through my thought process over the previous weeks and explained how I felt it was clear God was moving me on from this position under her leadership. She agreed. She was surprised and not exactly jumping out of her chair with joy – but she saw that I was making a wise decision. One that was well thought out and covered in prayer.
She made me feel uplifted, encouraged, validated.
But I still felt “off.”
This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. I was “supposed” to remain a part of the leadership of this amazing ministry until I timed out – meaning, my kids aged me out of the program when they entered elementary school.
That night, I couldn’t get to sleep. I struggled not because I was regretting this decision, but because I could not find a word to describe my emotions. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t content. I wasn’t anxious. I really had no idea what I was feeling.
Finally, I fell asleep.
The moment I woke up the next morning, I knew the word I was searching for.
I felt brave.
This decision didn’t make sense. Things were going well. I was doing good work. But I felt God leading me to do this and I did it. It was a leap of faith. Rarely, have I had opportunity for that in my life – and this was one time I did and I just did it. Bravely.
The really interesting thing about that word? The theme for MOPS this past year was…
Now, for most people reading this (congrats, on getting this far, you deserve a medal), you’re probably wondering what the big deal is. So, you gave up a volunteer position because it was taking time away from your family. Big whoop. No brainer. Move along.
Well, it’s not exactly that easy.
Remember what I said earlier – I’m better busy than bored? The temptation now was to fill this new space with something else. But then I would miss the point.
The day after I resigned from CORE team, I found myself in a car full of girlfriends driving up into the Arizona mountains for our bi-annual church women’s retreat.
Of course I had been in charge of publicity for this retreat. Of course I was a cabin leader. Of course I was on the photography team. OF.COURSE. Because that was me. Little Miss DO.ALL.THE.THINGS.
I was feeling a bit emotionally drained and wished I hadn’t signed up for any of that and could simply enjoy the weekend. But I dutifully brought my camera into the first evening session to start documenting the weekend. I snapped pictures of the crowd, the speaker and the singer. I half-listened to the words and the music because I was trying to capture some good shots. But what I did hear was enough to be even more regretful I signed up for the photog gig.
That night, I enjoyed time with my girlfriends, snacked on junk food and slept soundly. We walked through the cold, mountain air the next morning for breakfast and I was thoroughly enjoying not having to prepare food for anyone or have my adult conversation interrupted. I stopped back at the cabin to grab my camera for the morning session.
It was gone.
The whole bag was gone. One DSLR camera. Three lenses. Multiple SD cards. GONE.
Several gals helped me search the room. Nothing. We looked in the car. Nothing. I hiked back to the auditorium; surely I’d left there the night before? Nope. It was gone.
I was worried, but also a little relieved. I figured it had to be somewhere. Theft really wasn’t a concern. Since I couldn’t take pictures now, I guess I would just have to sit and listen to the speaker. (wink-wink)
At one point, my dear friend Alaina, leaned over and whispered,
“Aren’t you panicked right now? If that were me and my camera was missing, I would be panicking.”
“I’m really not,” I whispered back. “I honestly think God didn’t want me to have my camera this morning so I could concentrate on the message.”
Alaina stared at me.
Then, I said something pretty ballsy.
“In fact, I believe when we go back to our cabin, my camera will be there. I think God just prevented us from finding it so I wouldn’t be distracted.”
Alaina’s eyes widened and she turned away.
I’ll admit, that was a bit crazy.
But God did want my attention. That morning… I was forever changed.
“You must operate out of abundance, not burnout.”
When the retreat speaker, Kelli Gotthardt said that, my head snapped up. Confirmation. God was confirming my decision. I was careening straight toward burnout before I resigned from CORE team. Thankfully, I recognized it in time. But, abundance?! Wow! I would love to operate out of abundance – but how?
Kelli went on to discuss a dark period in her life when she began to question why she was serving the Lord. Like me, her service had become no more than fulfilling expectations. Crossing items off a checklist. She quoted scripture – “The love of Christ compels us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14). She said if we weren’t serving because “the love of Christ” was compelling us, we weren’t doing it right. I agreed. Wholeheartedly.
When Kelli reached that point, she made a decision to back out of EVERYTHING for one year.
I glanced at Tracy – the only person in the room who knew what I was currently going through – and our eyes met.
Unfortunately, Kelli moved on pretty quickly from that point. But I needed more.
I texted Tracy and expressed my desire to meet one on one with Kelli. She said she’d make it happen.
After the morning session ended, we all headed back to our cabins. Guess what was waiting for me in mine?
Yep, there she was – sitting atop a dresser that was searched earlier. I showed Alaina and she gasped. God is so cool!
Later, I did have an opportunity for one-on-one time with Kelli. I knew our time was limited and precious, so I got right to the point. I asked her HOW she took a year off from her commitments. What did that year look like for her? What did she do right? What did she do wrong?
As we were parting ways, I asked her specifically what that year – now ten years in her past – had done for she and her family.
She paused. Then she said the words that set the course for monumental changes in my life:
“It reset the rhythm for my entire family. Forever.”
Reset the rhythm. That’s what I needed… what Jason needed… what our family and household needed. Right then, right there, I decided I would reset the rhythm in our family – forever.
When I got home, I made a conscious decision that everything would be different. I didn’t know how, exactly. But that first Monday back? I made sure it was different than the Monday before. I said “yes” when my kids interrupted me and asked me to play with them. I jumped up and down and cheered when Jason got home from work. I woke earlier in the morning. I spent more time with Jesus. I blared worship music and listened with my hands raised. Baby steps. But steps forward nonetheless.
The change was apparent quickly and the results are amazing. My husband and my children are responding to the change in me. Everyone is happier, content.
I feel like I’ve been born-again, again.
My quiet time has come alive. I give God a few minutes and He shows me so much. It’s like He’s been sitting there waiting for me to sit still and listen and now He’s so excited, He’s just spilling everything out like a 12-year-old girl who just came home from summer camp. I love it.
My challenge, and I know many others can relate, is creating margin and keeping it. It’s tempting for me to fill up the time I committed to CORE with other things. In fact, several people have started conversations with me, “Since you’ll have more time on your hands now….” I have to stop them. I really don’t have any more time on my hands. I have the same time I had before – it’s just been repurposed.
The rhythm is changed. It’s reset. It’s manageable.
CORE team was just the beginning of the bloodbath. I’ve limited my involvement in other areas of ministry. I’ve terminated a contract with one of my PR clients. I’ve turned down a paid speaking opportunity this fall. I do not plan on teaching at the collegiate level (something I LOVE) for the next year – or maybe never again. I’ve said no to most social invitations. I’ve been spending quality time with dear friends, not quantity time with many acquaintances.
And I’m not done.
I’m not quitting everything though. That’s not possible for me. I’ve decided to keep one PR client and actually add one more. However, the time I give them is clearly outlined and protected. It will not interfere with the rhythm I’ve set at home. Thankfully, my schedule and childcare options allow me some freedom in my week to do a bit of work.
The time I’ve created so far has allowed me to reset the rhythm in the following ways:
- I rise early every morning, before my kids, and spend time in God’s Word and prayer.
- I’ve started journaling my prayers and using word art – just doodles since I’m not that artistic, but it’s been an awesome way for me to focus on what I’m learning.
- I’ve asked a half-dozen women to be on a “spiritual advisory board” for my life and I’ve spent one-on-one time with each of them, seeking advice and wisdom.
- I’ve completely changed the way my family eats. For two years, I’ve wanted to try the 100 Days of Real Food Challenge. I finally had time to research it, so we’re doing that.
- I have a goal to lose weight – so I’m working on that through the accountability of a Beachbody coach and I’m already down several pounds.
- I’m experimenting with essential oils to create a relaxed environment in my home.
- I’m reading books for the first time in years.
- I’m preparing to attend the She Speaks conference next month and learn more about what I hope God has in store for me down the road.
- I attended a Weekend to Remember marriage conference with Jason (and HIGHLY recommend it to every married couple).
- I’m saying “yes” to my kids and sitting longer with them – studying them – playing with them – reading to them – trying to understand them. What is entertaining to 4 and 2.5 year olds is NOT.ENTERTAINING.TO.ME.AT.ALL. It’s a discipline – but I want to be “yes” mom and forge relationships with them now. So, that means I spend a lot more of my days as “Mr. Smee” to Kenton’s “Captain Hook.” And holding “ballanina” recitals with my girly-girl.
I’m so grateful. I’m so glad God got my attention. I’m so glad I Reset the Rhythm and am excited to see how I can continue doing that as God reveals more to me as I sit with Him.
Thanks for reading this. It means a lot to me. I’d love to have you join me in this journey to Reset the Rhythm. Feel free to follow along on Facebook or Instagram (@makingourdream) and use #resettherhythm.