The Truth About Enough: For When We Need Rest

This post is part of the Finding Spiritual Whitespace Blog Tour that I am a part of, along with a group of soulful, journeying kindreds.

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One of the most difficult challenges I face as a woman is the onslaught of mixed messages about what it supposedly means to be a woman in our culture, as well as suggestions about how I could improve myself.

From magazine covers to TV ads to Pinterest, I’m constantly confronted with ideas about how I can do better – how I can look younger and hotter, host better birthday parties for my kids, spruce up my home, improve my children’s chances of getting an Ivy League education, please my man in the kitchen and the bedroom, or climb a few more rungs up the corporate ladder.

The moments when I ignore the call to be more and allow myself to feel comfortable with who I am – quirks and all – are often interrupted by a seed of doubt that sprouts fast and tall. Contentment and peace disappear.

Suddenly, my skin doesn’t fit the way I think it should.

I notice faint evidence of wrinkles on my 40-year-old hands, and panic rushes over me. Have I done enough for my age? Will I do enough in my lifetime? Do I even have what it takes to be enough?

Is there even such a thing as “enough”? Because truth be told, I often crave more than what I’m given, too.

Someone compliments my smile. But while I respond with warm words of gratitude, inwardly, I wish I had Carrie Underwood’s bright, toothy grin.

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My boss recently promoted me, and the opportunity both thrills me and rewards me. But fears of inadequacy also take hold, and I worry I don’t have what it takes to live up to the challenge. I’m afraid I will blow it. I also wonder how much further along I’d be right now if I was smarter, savvier, and hadn’t taken that six-year career sabbatical a decade ago.

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After spending an entire Saturday cleaning my house, my fingers collect wads of dark purple dust I missed along the stairwell. Then I remember I also forgot to wipe down the ceiling fan blades … and the baseboards … and I remember that load of laundry souring in the washing machine … and that I forgot to thaw the chicken I had planned to bake for dinner. I wish there was another Angela, because 24 hours isn’t enough for this Angela to accomplish it all.

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My son’s sticky lips land just above my eyebrow as he rushes outside to play with his friends. “You’re the best mommy in the entire world,” he shouts before slamming the door. Yet I remember snapping at him and his older sister only minutes earlier, and failure hits me hard. I try to shoo the negative thought away, savor the moment, and tell myself that I’m not a bad mom, only to defeat the positive thoughts with words of chastisement for not being better.

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During these times, I need to remember that I am both enough and not enough at the same time. It is only when I accept the beauty behind that paradox that I am able to breathe, rest, and allow God to replenish my weary, fragile soul with lavish grace.

Here’s the truth about ”enough.”

Because of God’s love and mercy and through Christ’s dwelling inside you, you have a purpose in this world, and you are the only one who can fulfill that purpose. Therefore, in that way, you are enough. You are smart enough, gorgeous enough, and woman enough to be who you were created to be. You are enough for the light of God’s love to shine through you and your broken places. You are enough to make a difference.

But, you’re not enough to meet every need in this world. In fact, you’re not even enough to meet every need of your family members, or your friends, or your boss and co-workers.

And that’s OK. Because that’s by God’s design. Not one of us made of flesh was created to be perfect this side of heaven. Our bodies will fail us. Our hearts will deceive us. Our minds will confuse us.

Just as I need Jesus to make me completely whole, so does the rest of the world. When we try to function as Jesus instead of simply living to show His love, we exhaust ourselves even further. We frustrate ourselves with the knowledge that we’re not the be-all and end-all, when in fact, that truth should set us free and bring us rest.

In her debut book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, Bonnie Gray takes her readers through her journey to find soul rest. Bonnie’s writing is as lovely as her heart, and there is godly wisdom on each page.

Something she wrote early in the book resonated with me quickly and remained as I read the ensuing chapters: Bonnie once felt suspicious of rest:
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In her debut book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace, Bonnie Gray takes her readers through her journey to find soul rest. Bonnie’s writing and heart are lovely and there is Godly wisdom on each page. Something she wrote early in the book resonated with me quickly and remained as I read the remaining chapters:Bonnie once felt suspicious of rest.

I’ve had to make my own places of rest to shield myself from the world by planning well, solving problems, and pleasing others. It’s the kind of rest that is easy to check off, but it locks p my heart. Even trusting God became a test of my resolve. Rest became a battle to run away from the things that break me — instead of allowing the brokenness to bring me to him. All this running is exhausting. Because whenever I stop to face the silence, I have to face the truth. I am suspicious of a restful life. I don’t believe it can be mine.

When I try to be enough in the ways I was not intended to be, I become suspicious of not only my ability to rest, but my worthiness to experience it.

But I am worthy of spending time in the spiritual whitespace that unifies me with love and sets me free to be myself.

I am worthy of rest.

Bonnie Gray is the writer behind Faith Barista.com who wrote a book about her inspiring, heart-breaking journey to find rest, which garnered Publisher’s Weekly starred review. I’m taking the journey to find rest through this guidebook and invite you to read it too. You can get a copy HERE.

The Ledge – Originally Posted in 2009

Repost from 2009

He measures 14 inches shorter and weighs 12 pounds less than his sister who drew her first breath more than three years before air brushed against his round face. Those facts hold little significance in Z-man’s toddler-sized mind. He is not easily daunted by his limitations…he rarely recognizes their existence. Often, he stretches himself toward risks in order to grasp opportunity. He desires what his big sister possesses. He wants his legs to move as quickly as hers can. He does not want to sit on the sidelines and watch. For my boy, learning comes by the result of doing, not from listening.

This past Easter Sunday, my daughter stood on the wooden ledge that borders a small hill in front of our home. The ledge, which separates the sidewalk from the lawn, stands about a foot high. After obtaining her balance, she slowly walked across the eroding beam. Not wanting to miss out on a thrill, Z-man, hoisted his frame on top of the ledge. My hands held a camera, so I asked my son to wait. I knew he needed my assistance to secure his balance before he could follow his sister.

True to his nature, he embraced his impulses and ignored his mother’s advice. Just seconds after the soles of his shoes touched the wooden ledge, Z-man’s tender forehead collided with the cement sidewalk. My fingers pressed against his collarbone as he tumbled, which lessened the the damage caused by the blow, but did not stop his fall.

A sorrowful wail burst from the depth of his lungs and his hot tears seeped through my blouse as I held him close to my chest offering him every ounce of love I owned as comfort. I could not undo the fall, nor could I instantly relieve him of the system shocking pain that seared through his head. I certainly did not lecture or scold him about his actions either…natural consequence took care of that. In that moment of temporary agony, I simply covered my child with myself .. .my time, my tender words, my kisses, my love.

Sometimes, I act a lot like my son. I covet the possessions of others. Occasionally this includes items with material value, but mostly I yearn for the intangible…talents, admiration, abilities, milestones, and recognition. More than once have I hopped on top of a ledge looking at those ahead of me and wanting to catch up…wanting to be anywhere but in the place in which I stood. More than once, my Father asked me to wait…to allow Him to steady my balance and direct me. More than once, I shook my head and mumbled I know what I want. I know that I want it now, and I am going after it. And more than once, I took off running only to slip, crash, and cry out for solace.

After each fall caused by my own haughtiness, my Father scooped me up into His arms, held me tight, and covered me with His love.

Kicking and Screaming

I was fairly certain that I would not survive my daughter’s toddler years.

I’m not joking. It was rough and my sanity was threadbare.

For a long while, I tried to hide those sentiments. I knew mothers who spent months at the hospital crib-sides of their sick children. I knew mothers who made several 90-mile trips a week to see pediatric doctors who specialized in autism, autoimmune diseases and blood disorders. I felt that I had no right to feel overwhelmed.

My daughter was healthy … beautiful … bright … lively. Yet, I was overwhelmed.

She threw violent tantrums that sometimes lasted for hours. These were not “ordinary” tantrums and I seldom handled these fits of rage well. However, there were many instances when God’s peace wrapped my frazzled soul with strength and mercy.

I remember one day in our Texas apartment when beads of sweat lined up across her forehead causing wayward strands of hair to matte her cherry red cheeks. With her fists balled, her eyes shooting darts of fury, and her nostrils flaring, my daughter released a deep rage through piercing screams.
Standing in front of my little girl at that moment I inwardly wrestled with my own sadness and anger, which were mixed with feelings of inadequacy. I felt clueless, helpless, and useless. My child had been lingering in that state of wrath for more than thirty minutes…nothing I tried diffused the situation. Ignoring the fit proved futile as did sending her to her room until she calmed down. Issuing consequences only intensified her wails.

I tried every iota of parenting advice I had ever read or heard. It was time to listen to my heart.

Without a word I sat on the floor just inches from my daughter. Firmly gripping her shoulders I pulled her into my arms and I held her tightly while rocking back and forth. At first, she flailed forcefully trying to escape my embrace.

“No Mommy,” she yelled. “No! I’m mad, mad, mad! I don’t want to hug you Mommy. I’m mad. I’m mad. I’m mad!”

In another attempt to break free she bent her knees and with all the might encompassed in her thirty pound body, she pushed her hands against my stomach and, for good measure, bellowed, “Let go of me right now!”
I didn’t let go. Steadied by a calm I am certain was a grace gifted by God, I held my daughter close and gently pressed my lips on her wet head.

Then I whispered into her ear.

“Shhhh. Get control. I know you can do it. I know you are angry, but I know you can get control. Shhhh. Mommy loves you. Let me help you. Let me love you.”

After another minute of squirming, she stopped screaming. She stopped fighting me. Her body went limp from exhaustion and her breathing was loud and heavy. Still, I kept her in my arms and continued giving her gentle kisses until she fell asleep.

I think that recognizing a bit of myself in that raging toddler helped calm me during the most intense moments of that tantrum.

In general, I am calm … even sweet, but a streak of cold fire that courses through me sometimes takes control.

Sometimes the injustices of this world overwhelm me.

Sometimes it is the tight grip of fear that unleashes my wild fury.

There are times when I rebel. Times when I vent my frustration with kicks and screams.

Times when I grit my teeth and think “I’m so mad, mad, mad I could spit!”

There are times when I cannot see past what I want and what I cannot have.

There are times when my Father enters to comfort me and I push Him away. Times when I refuse to open my Bible. Times when I lose my breath , choke on my sobs, and scream “No!”
During those times, even when I’m at my ugliest, God doesn’t let go. He doesn’t get overwhelmed or sickened by the sight of His headstrong daughter.

He stays close, and He teaches me how to regain control … how to be still … and how to allow myself to be loved.

Beautiful

On a wall in my office hangs this bright canvas painted by Jeanne Winters.

Isn’t it delicious? It’s even prettier in person. The brush strokes belong to Jeanne and the message is inspired by God’s Word.

Each time I looked at this lovely canvas today, I thought of Sara.

Beautiful …

Encouraging …

Incandescent …

Unassuming …

Genuine …

Selfless …

Sara.

It may seem hokey to compare a person to a painting, but to me, the similarities are many.

Sara lives her life as a testimony for beauty … for the the truth that God makes everything … every. last. thing. … beautiful at the specific moment that its exquisite loveliness is meant to be taken in.

The ache of knowing that we are losing Sara burrows deep. During the two brief years in which I have been blessed to call her my friend, I have witnessed beauty amid the ugliest circumstances. Whether the scenario was one of frustration, isolation or agony, when Sara described it, a sliver (at the minimum) of beauty surfaced.

Even now, as her body is closing down, Sara is showing others unadulterated, unbridled beauty. She has been committing every last ounce of herself to loving others.

Sara is beautiful. And her story God’s story about her life is beautiful and will remain so in its time.

Ecclesiastes 3:10 – 11

I have seen the burden God has placed on us all.  Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.