First things first:
The winner of our pouch giveaway is: AMY K!
And the winner of our “oily” giveaway is: NATASHIA PETZ!
Be on the lookout for an email from me this weekend, ladies!
There’s this idea making the rounds of the blogosphere. It’s not a new one. In fact, it’s quite old. It’s just being re-packaged with Pinterest-worthy fonts and graphic design.
And the gist of it is this: YOU have been called to do something amazing! Incredible! YOU are a shining star! Only YOU can do XYZ. Be YOU!
I think it can be summed up most concisely in this popular t-shirt that is circulating the interwebs.
The thing is, I really like this t-shirt. I want to buy it. I want to wear a constant reminder that I am unique. That I am beautiful. That I have something to offer this great wide world of ours.
There’s nothing wrong with any of this–at least at surface level.
But if I start to break it down–start to turn all of those YOU’S inward–I end up with a small mountain of ME’S.
Which is where I hit a snag or two.
Because if I think about me–who I really am at my core–3 words come to mind:
I am not a Christian because of me but because of what Jesus did when he died on the cross for my sins to reconcile me to God.
And my marriage is not about me but “us” because the moment Shaun and I said, “I do,” we became one.
And–as any mother anywhere knows–there is precious little room for me in mamahood. How can there be when a solitary trip to the bathroom becomes the holy grail of “alone time?”
Which is why, as much as I loved how it looked and what it said, I was a bit unsettled by this little print that I bought from Marshall’s.
“Do what you love.”
It sounds so good. Just like Be-YOU-tiful. Catchy. Simple. Alluring in its invitation to embrace one’s fullest potential.
But I don’t have to ponder it for too long before I hit another snag. Because here are some things that I love:
- Watching movies
- Reading books
- Making fancy meals
- Long, soulful conversations with friends
- Creating things
On the flip side, I don’t particularly love hustling all of the children into the car and then listening to Nola wail for 30 consecutive minutes (that’s 1,800 seconds) because, well, she’s (almost) 3, and she can’t handle life. I’m not wild about finally getting to the gym to teach a BODYPUMP class that ends with my looking up during the cool down to discover the daycare worker with a chagrined expression on her face standing beside a pants-less Evy after my (supposedly) potty-trained other (almost) 3-year-old has had an accident while playing on the racquetball court. And I don’t just adore it when my baby blows out his diaper as I wipe up the soiled toddler and try to gather my brood from the four corners of the gym daycare.
I don’t love going to Walmart with six children, one of whom has decided that she is petrified of sitting down in a grocery basket even though she’s done it without complaint or incident a thousand times before (hashtag toddler logic).
I’m also not in love with putting kids to bed by myself for the 17th night out of the last 23 because my husband is going on 5 consecutive weeks of work trips.
I don’t say any of those things as bids for pity. They don’t even begin to stack up to the harsh daily realities that many of you face. I know that. But they make up a good portion of my reality at the moment, and I’m not in love with any of them.
Does that make me a fraud? Am I not being true to myself because I only rarely do most of the things on my list of loved activities? After all, won’t I be a better mom if I take care of me first? If I pursue desires that fulfill me first? Practically every single Instagram account that I follow tells me this is so–including many of the Christian ones.
While I understand the motivation behind that line of thought (we don’t do anybody any favors when we ignore our own health or grooming or sleep), I have to flatly say that there is zero Biblical precedent for “putting ourselves first to serve others better.”
How can there be when Jesus says, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first” and “deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me?”
So, if you don’t like the print, why did you buy it, Abbie?
Short, silly answer? It was pretty. And cheap. And I was able, despite my misgivings, to take it in its simplest form to mean that I should focus on the things that I am uniquely gifted to do–what *I* love–rather than chasing after the interests of others and comparing my results with theirs.
But ultimately, I bought it because when I see it, I intentionally transpose the words “Love and “Do” so that, instead it says, “Love what you do.”
Philippians 4:13 is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
It sounds so empowering–so transformative. And it is! Just maybe not for the reasons we think.
Because when you tack on the previous verse you get: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.“
I have learned the secret of being content–HAPPY–in any and every situation.
So, when it says that I can do “all this” through Him who gives me strength, it’s not talking about “all of this amazing, inspirational, exciting, challenging-in-a-way-the-world-admires stuff.” It’s talking about “all of this good and bad and frustrating and mundane and everything in between” stuff.
To take a bit of paraphrasing liberty, it’s like saying, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether the baby sleeps or wakes up 5 times at night, whether the toddler keeps her stuff together or completely loses it on the filthiest floor of the most crowded aisle in Walmart, whether the teenager quietly does his homework or mouths back and stomps out of the room at dinner. I can do motherhood through Him who gives me strength.”
What I take away from that is that my goal is to learn the secret of loving what I do, not first and foremost because it is fun or fulfilling, but because it is the very moment that I am called to rather than a moment that may never materialize no matter how many motivational t-shirts I don.
Is motherhood (insert: your own situation in life) fun? Yes! Fulfilling? Absolutely!
And has God gifted us with unique interests, loves, and abilities that He desires us to utilize for His glory?
I know He has! We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
And yet. I beg you (and me) not to confuse His giftings with an excuse to despise your current circumstances.
Whatever they are, however ho-hum or downright demoralizing, God sees you doing them, and he sees your attitude in them. Through every bottom wiped, story told, boo-boo kissed, tantrum endured, nightmare soothed, and math problem solved.
You may not be able to do (exactly) what you love right now (or ever). I think Jesus spoke directly to the myth that we are most fulfilled when we do what makes us “come alive” when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Such a beautiful, challenging paradox. And yet I’ve seen it play out time and again in my life. When I CHOOSE to love the maddening moment that God has placed me in–not necessarily with my emotions (which can sometimes border on disgust or panic) but with my actions–I see growth and enormous fulfillment in my own life and blessing in that of others.
So, this is my challenge to you (and me) as we (in America) head into a long weekend that I genuinely hope will be one of relaxation and enjoyment:
Do what you love. By all means.
But first: love what you do.
Thank you Abbie, I so needed this post today! Being a Mama is hard and just downright stinks sometimes but this is such an amazing reminder!
Ditto to Kim D.’s comment on being a reader of pretty much all your posts, but this being the first time I’ve commented. I LOVE this. Thank you for posting it.
Also, I’ve thought that about the overuse?…misuse?… common use of Philippians 4:13, about people not necessarily reading the verse before it. But it makes it even so much more powerful. Again, thank you for posting.
I follow your blog and read most everything you post, but this is the first time I have commented. I am not a young mom anymore… My 4 kids are 21, 19, 16 (girls) & 14 (my “baby” boy), but I have related to and appreciated so many of your funny, real-life, inspiring, thoughtful, God-honoring posts that spur us women on toward better & “holier” marriages & mothering. For some reason, this post brought me to tears, probably because I’ve lived it for so many years, and continue to, just in different ways. You are right on, Abbie! Hard to do but LOVE what the Lord has given you to do in your “moments”, and there will be time, later on for more moments of doing “what you love”, but like me, as my kids grow older & I face the reality of them leaving my home & care, (my oldest daughter just got engaged!) you realize that you really were doing “what you love”… wiping sticky hands, reading the same bedtime story over & over again, kissing those faces good morning & goodnight every night. It is a high calling to do what God calls us to… To love what we do, and more often than not, it turns into doing what we love. Thank you for your beautiful words & for encouraging moms everywhere. Blessings, Kim D
This resonates with me because I too believe this is according to scripture. Also, I would love to hear your reasons for homeschooling and anything else homeschool related! I just started up again after a break from it for some years. Taking 7 kids home from school is a big change!
First of all, so excited I won! Can’t wait!
You really nailed it with this one, Abbie. Thank you for writing it. I will be thinking about it all night (as I clean….which I don’t want to do….but I will anyways).
Thank you, I’m currently pregnant with my sixth . I actually found out a few days after my husbands vasectomy, so a little shocker . I feel like the day I actually get to start doing stuff for myself I’m going to be too old and tired lol. Somedays I feel like I can’t do it any longer, but I know those feelings pass especially when I finally see my kids laughing and getting along (rare). My husband is great, but is gone a great deal of the time and when he is home he’s catching up on stuff around the house. It’s nice reading stuff like this, knowing I’m not the only one. I’m trying to get closer to God again, but I feel too tired for anything extra. I just talk to him a lot. I do love what I do, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard 🙂
Ughhhhhh I NEED this…. I’m currently 7 weeks pregnant with my 6th baby and feeling, ummm BAD, TIRED, completely WORN OUT. I know it will pass and things will come to a new normal again but the first trimester is so hard. The truth is, this life isn’t about how I feel it’s about God’s work and plan so I’ll keep on keeping on. Thanks for sharing your heart, I totally agree.
Beautifully said! Thank you.
You have such a wonderful way with words! What a gift! Thanks for sharing them!
I love your honesty so much! I can think of so many times in my childhood that my own sweet mother likely wanted to pull her hair out and run away, but she always showed us love and patience. My story is the opposite of yours. I’m still waiting on God to bless us with a child, so my verse would read something like this: “I have learned the secret of being content and happy in any and every situation, whether God makes me a mother this year or not!” =) We are all so blessed!
Oh Abbie, thank you so much for your honesty in sharing this truth. Don’t we all need the reminder that it’s not about us… Praying for patience, peace and joy for you while you do the solo-parenting act! 🙂
Thanks you for posting this! I appreciate your thoughtfulness and honesty and wisdom. I only have one baby so far, but I definitely need to be reminded often that “I can do motherhood through Him who strengthens me.” How refreshing and inspiring it is to see you as a mother who doesn’t have it all together but is trying her best to “love what you do” and trying her best for God’s glory. I want to be like you! This all reminds of Jim Elliott’s quote, “wherever you are, be all there,” so that no matter what we are doing we can love it and be all there. Keep up the good work, Mama! Bless your heart 🙂