“Deadful,” that’s my four year old’s word. “When you feel dead but you’re not,” he says as he sprawls out on our floor.
While I’m not sure what his realm of experience is with feeling “deadful,” it’s a great word. I can relate. Maybe you can, too. When you are pulled in a thousand directions, when today’s trouble and tasks and to-do’s spill over into tomorrow—not an empty tomorrow, mind you, but a brimming full no-room-to-breathe tomorrow—when you dread going to sleep because it means you’ll have to wake up to the mess and do it all over again, when you dread everything on your calendar and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, no margin for error, no end in sight, no time or space or opportunity for a nervous breakdown (but you know it’s coming), you feel— “deadful.”
But that’s not the life God has given us to live. God has called us to thrive, to be fruitful, to have abundant life—not to go around feeling “deadful.” So how do you find and live a life that doesn’t feel like it’s unraveling at the seams?
Concentrate on the ESSENTIALS. Find those things that are the “essence” of who we are, not just what is urgent or screaming for our attention.
What is essential to who I am? What is my essence?
4 questions to help you find your essentials:
- what is the single goal of my life?
- what kinds of things help me to keep this goal in mind?
- what kinds of things energize and “feed my soul’ so that I am ready to meet my goal?
- what helps me to remember that my daily tasks are not obstacles but part of my goal?
In many ways, determining our essentials is a matter of perspective as much as it is a matter of priority. For me, this year began with asking myself what my single, central goal is for my life. My answer: I want my life to be kingdom-focused. I want to seek Him first in all that I do. I want to make every act an act of worship. Does making meals and vacuuming and grocery shopping feel like kingdom-work? Rarely. But can it be? Absolutely!
Rather than feeling as though each task was pulling me in a separate direction, I began seeing each task as pointing me in the same direction. Every task, every responsibility was an opportunity to seek Him first and to live for His kingdom.
Next, I looked for those activities that helped me to refuel for that work, for that goal. I considered my extra-curriculars as it were, those commitments that were not daily tasks or responsibilities but things I could potentially say “no” to. I’m an introvert. And I have to be aware of where my energy is going and how to refuel, or I easily get overwhelmed and burnt out. I spent sometime defining for myself what those key things were for me. An afternoon of shopping is not restful for me (though it might be for you). Exercising puts me in a foul mood. Going to a party or “game night” is often draining and stressful. But painting, calligraphy, writing, a long nap, sitting in silence (in a dimly lit room)—these are life-giving to me. I need to say “yes” to these more often without the guilt of all that I’m not getting accomplished. And sometimes it also may mean silencing the little voices that think they need me; teaching my kids to honor my needs is just as important as meeting theirs. Asking others for help so that I can have that space is not selfish; it’s essential.
Beautiful, life-giving, kingdom-focused: those were my essentials for this year. As I approached each task, each opportunity, each commitment, I filtered it through those three criteria. Some things didn’t make the cut. And the things that did were exactly what I needed to do and exactly where I needed to be.
Ladies, we can’t do it all. And we have to stop putting that expectation on ourselves. It’s literally draining the life out of us. Instead, we need to choose what is essential, and that’s different for each of us. It means somethings will be left undone, and other things will not be done in instagram-worthy fashion. For some of us, it may mean we leave that sink full of dishes for a bit and focus on journaling the Word. For others, it may mean you say “yes” to that shopping trip with friends even though it means asking someone else to watch the kids for a bit. For all of us, it means focusing our lives on seeking Him first, worshipping the Author of Life instead of serving our to-do list. It means nurturing relationships and taking opportunity for conversation. It means sending the kids to play so that we can sit in silence with the Lord and have our spirits revived and our perspective realigned.
It means choosing life instead of settling for “deadful.” It means finding those essentials.