I’m wearing four layers of clothing: a bra, shirt, puffy vest, and coat — as if I’ve armored myself against what’s to come. On a chilly morning I step into a clinic for my yearly mammogram. As expected, I’m escorted to a tiny room and told to get rid of the layers.
The nurse holds up a garment and says, “When you’re done, put on this cape.” It’s covered in flowers and has a single snap at the neck. I have to admit that I feel a bit like Wonder Woman wearing it. And I might have put my hands on my hips and pretended to be her when the technician was busy looking at her computer screen.
I do not, however, feel like Wonder Woman throughout most of the procedure. As any woman who has been through this knows, I’m prodded and pinched, stretched and squished, twisted and placed in positions I did not know I was capable of achieving. The nurse is kind and tries to make the process less awkward. I tell her, “When I’m done, I’m going to get a treat. In my world, if you’re not a cowgirl and you have to be in stirrups or any body part must be compressed, then you get a treat.” She laughs.
I make my way to my favorite coffee shop afterward and order a latte. Then I open my laptop and take a look at my email inbox. Suddenly, I feel like I’m being stretched and compressed all over again — except this time it’s my energy and time that are getting worked over. There are several different requests, deadlines to be met, and messages from people with a variety of needs (all urgent). My anxiety immediately sky rockets, and I dive right in to getting things done. But in a few moments, I pause and realize I’ve had a relapse. Years ago, that’s the way I worked, the way I lived. It led me to the brink of burnout. I’m not going back.
Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism, says, “Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.” It can feel as if we are at the mercy of our calendars and to-do lists. This is a hard way to live. What I’m learning to ask instead is, “What’s most important right now?”
The Apostle Paul said, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us (Philippians 3:13-14). It can seem to us like Paul did a lot of things in his lifetime, but he really just did one thing in many different ways.
How would you fill in the blank in Paul’s declaration, “I focus on this one thing . . . “? You might answer with words about loving well, serving faithfully, living with excellence, or practicing resilience.
Then you can ask, “What does that specifically look like in this season of my life?”
These are not easy questions, but they can bring clarity to our lives. They can help us say “no” with courage and “yes” with conviction. As Greg McKeown also says, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” Personally, I’ll take inner peace over being pulled in different directions any day (except maybe the one when I have to get my mammogram).
Shelly D. Calcagno’s words inspire and challenge me, “Sometimes I think of the future, and I imagine this family looking at some old pictures. . . . And some sweet child whom I’ve never met but who is part of my family in generations to come looks at my face and asks, ‘Tell me about her.’ What will they say about me? I hope they will see the good parts of me living on in them because I decided to live with purpose now.”
My guess is you are living with purpose — even (and perhaps especially) on the days when you can’t see it or you don’t feel it. Putting words to how you’re doing so is meant to be an affirmation of what you’re already doing, not another standard or expectation to live up to. You are surrounded by grace, supported by love, and you are doing so much better than you know.
God, there are so many good things to do in this world that it’s sometimes hard to see what’s really best. When we begin to get overwhelmed, to take on more than You ever asked us to do, help us to slow down, bring it all to You and choose wisely what we pursue. We are not here to do what everyone wants but what You will. Whew. Amen.
The holidays can be stressful. Pause and take a deep breath, then whisper a prayer, and answer this question, “What is the one thing I most want to pursue in this season?” I’d love to hear your answer in the comments!
Amen, Amen, Amen.
Thank you for this.
… And to answer your question, rest.
That is a lot to think about and process. Years to come, what indeed will they say about me?
Love. I’m writing a letter to my son about Christmas traditions. He and his wife are expecting (twins) for the first time in March. I want to release him from any childhood tradition he might think he needs to hold onto. Letting him know that the only tradition I’ve ever had for him and his siblings was love. Love makes cinnamon rolls at 4am Christmas morning. Love fills stockings with thoughtful things each child will enjoy. I am hoping he sees over time it’s not the action as much as the heart of love behind the action.
Thx for sharing today! ♥️
Kris Behringer says
This article was so timely and spot on, but your reply… the gift you are giving your son is priceless. Someday, when my young adults are married and expecting, I think I will follow your lead and release them from the traditions I worked tirelessly to create. In doing so, I ran myself ragged because I thought that’s what a “SuperMom” would do. I know now, it isn’t.
Ruth Mills says
What awesome perspective this gives! And what a great question to ask not just ourselves but others. I’m looking forward to the great conversations to come when I ask others to consider “What is most important right now?” Bless you lavishly!
Reaching out to and taking care of the people God puts in front of me.
Thanks so much Holly! I really do need to hear this and reflect on what I need to change. As I am older I especially need to guard my time as I run out of energy!!! May God bless you and yours and have a lovely Christmas. ❤️
Intentional JOY- even when things are not easy or ideal. I seek joy in this season. Merry Christmas
Michelle Chin says
This post really encouraged me! Thank you so much for sharing, Holly.
Angela Cain says
Peace. God’s peace.
Danita Jenae says
Love this, Ms. Holley. After my own season of burnout twenty years ago, I often and regularly pause and ask God to show me what is for my calendar for now and what I can take off it. Some seasons, we self-inflict our overextending. But I’m learning that in other seasons, we truly have no choice. In those times, I go from big picture semester/monthly/weekly prioritizing down to daily or hourly. Ok, Lord. What do you have for me today? What do you have for me to do just right now? He’s always helpful (and surprisingly merciful) when I ask Him to help me prioritize.
Holley, Perhaps one important thing I should do is to share something important with our Incourage family. Most woman know that mammograms are not a fun thing to do and sometimes don’t get one if they do not feel a lump or bump in their breast. Well, I felt something like a small stick on my rib underneath my breast -it was breast cancer. None of the medical personnel had seen that before. I had surgery, radiation & chemo & took a tamoxifen pill for 8 years to prevent further cancer. It did not as the breast cancer mestatized into bone cancer, which is a death sentence. I have been getting treatment to keep it from spreading & to help with pain for over one year. My back hurts constantly. When I read what you wrote, I decided I needed to let this info get out to more women.. Better safe than sorry! God bless all!
My dear sister Frances, I am praying for you and will continue to do so. I do not know your struggle but I know your heart and I pray that God’s blessings will continue to keep you in His loving arms for that’s the only true safe place to be.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Holly so well said. We can be wrapped in the world’s ways of Christmas. If not careful us that are saved. By buying presents. Spending far to much money on them. Getting caught up in the Christmas lights in our towns. The trees in our towns and home so beautifully decorated. Carol singing. But forgot the real meaning of why we have Christmas. It is all about a baby that was born in Manger no were fancy. Just a humble stable. He Jesus was the best present of all. Who went on to die on the best tree of all Calvary that was decorated with his Holy blood that was shed for all mankind. What greater love could our Lord have given us. So let’s not get caught up in the world’s ways of Christmas. But always remember the real reason why we celebrate Christmas. The best present and the tree of all that our Lord Jesus died on because he love us so much. That was as I said decorated with his blood that was shed for us. What greater love is there than this. So we have to make room for the king of the world Jesus especially if saved. In our hearts. Spend time with him in Prayer and Bible reading. Not get so busy especially at this time of year that we don’t have time for Jesus. As he always makes time for us. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
I’m take time each day to be Thankful to God, & count my Blessings, instead of just floating thru my day.
Beth Williams says
Now I’m working on sacrificial giving. Helping others any way I can. For Christmas I chose two senior angels (older adults) & purchased what they wanted plus some candy & hand lotion. Wanting to make their day as special as possible. I also volunteer with Loaves & Fishes Food Bank. Sometimes that looks like buying supplies, making food boxes, or simply putting meals together. What ever it is I want to help out & do my part & shine God’s light & love in this sin darkened world.
Greater Vision has a song “Start with Well Done” that expresses my feelings. Here is a snippet of the Chorus When this life is over And the next ones begun I want it to start with Well Done!
Have a Blessed Christmas everyone!!
This year, I have been focusing on Prayer. Not just saying I will pray but actually stopping in the moment and sending a prayer or verse to others when asked or thought of.
Prayer is powerful, I’ve witnessed many times “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.””
Matthew 18:20 ESV
In the midst of pain, death this year , I have still felt the nearness of the Lord through prayer. Thanks be to God
Shawna Moriarty says
Learning what to say no to and what to say yes to. Thank you for the reminder. Even when I’m doing it, I can forget. I had a friend in business that had a sign in her office that said “not even for you, not just this one time.” as her reminder to set boundaries.