When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

Do you ever have those days when you’re giving it all you’ve got and it just doesn’t seem like you can meet the demands of your life?  I’m having a string of days like that.  Please tell me you go through times like this.

When I focus on one thing, ten other legitimately important things aren’t getting done.  Deadlines loom, hundreds of actual emails (not spam) come in, yet I can either respond to those or I work on the time-sensitive projects and phone calls that can’t be delayed. All the while I’m planning showers, hosting dinners, getting mission trip updates and attending meetings for the trip I will be taking this summer, texting and talking to family members and friends who I love and want to engage with, and there’s social media notifications and messages popping up all over the place. Oh and I’m a parent, wife, daughter, sister, worship leader, neighbor (a pretty negligent neighbor, but still) and pet owner.  There’s a teeny bit of sleep, exercise, laundry, meal-making, tomato-seedling-babying, prayer, reading, personal writing squeezed in there somewhere.

If you told me about your week you could likely tell a similar story or crazier.  I have dear friends whose child has been in and out of the hospital with health issues and trust me, they’ve had a far more demanding few weeks than mine.  Yet they wouldn’t trade their load for anything.  Neither would I.  Even when it’s all good stuff (or most of it) – stuff we willingly signed up for – we can only do what we can do.

This is why I love the story in Luke 5.  When the crowds were pressing in on Jesus, he got into a boat and floated out into the water to teach them.  (Way to create a boundary, Jesus!  May I learn from you.)  Then, after Jesus was finished teaching, he told Peter to go out deeper and put his nets down.  What Peter says in Luke 5:5 is classic.”We worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing!”  But then he adds, “But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down.”  And wasn’t he glad he did what Jesus told him to do when those nets were so filled with fish, they started to break?!

Peter’s best wasn’t enough to catch a single fish the night before.  But when he went deeper and obeyed Jesus, he couldn’t have imagined the blessing that followed.  Peter and Jesus remind me that I can’t be my best self when I’m trying to it all in my own strength.  I need to listen for the voice of Jesus, go deeper, and just do what He asks.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to do everything everyone else wants us to do, and he doesn’t even ask us to do all we wish we could do.  We just have to listen for the things He calls us to do and He will multiply our efforts to accomplish more than we could do in a hundred years without him.  That’s a relief to me, and I hope it helps you if you feel overwhelmed.

Take a deep breath. The people around you may not understand how hard you are trying, how much is coming at you, or how defeated you feel when your best doesn’t keep all the plates spinning perfectly.  But were we put on this earth to make everyone else happy?  (No, we were not.)  Remember the One who knows your heart and loves you whether or not you do all the things; He is ready and waiting for you to row to deeper water and listen for His voice.

 

My burden is light -- matthew 11-29-20

“Their Leaves NEVER Wither…”

Tree planted by water-Ps 1-3

I’ve recently embarked on a 40 day prayer journey and during this experience, this passage – Psalm 1 – that I memorized as a kid has come to life in a brand new way.  When I memorized Psalm 1 (at least 30 years ago), I could not quite relate to the metaphor of withered leaves like I can now.  I don’t mind admitting that there have been a lot of days since then when I’ve felt my leaves curling up around the edges.

On days when I get discouraged by the state of our world, or when I’m bone tired from depending on my own limited skills, or when I feel misunderstood, undervalued or overwhelmed, I question whether or not I will ever have what it takes to bear good fruit. As a writer, human and time limitations could easily turn blogging into a struggle no less daunting than drawing water from a stone.

The truth is, I don’t have what it takes to thrive by myself.  When I am depending on my own resources or human logic, my leaves wither faster than a pansy in July.  If you know me at all, you know I am a hot mess without constant help from the Mighty Mind that dreamed me up. I now see that when my leaves withered I was not fully pressing in to the fertile soil that keeps me grounded or being nourished by the water that quenches every thirst. The strength that comes from being watered by The River of Life cannot be overestimated.

Every day, I recognize the familiar signs of withering all around me when I go out in public, or when I watch the news.  This week’s tragedy in Brussels, threats at a local high school here in my community, broken marriages everywhere I look… these things tear at our hope.

Psalm 1 was written long before Jesus was born, so if it was true then it’s all the more true now.  On this Easter weekend, I can’t help thinking how Jesus died on a tree that was chopped down and separated from its roots to buy back life for us. We never have to be apart from the kind of love that pours life into the lifeless…and wins every single time. Sure, evil is strong; but the Hope of the Ages is stronger!

On this weekend of so many mixed emotions, we can celebrate the hope that Jesus not only existed, but He came so we can tap into the same power that raised Him from death to life.  (That truth keeps blowing my mind.)  We are given an open invitation to live our lives rooted deeply in that One Great Hope.  This isn’t a temporary promise, like clever marketing campaigns assure us will satisfy our longings.  We are talking about the kind of hope that is steeped in unfathomable, sacrificial love. It doesn’t wax and wane from one day to the next.

No matter how deeply we allow our roots to sink into Him, we will never reach the limits of Christ’s love, His Father’s wisdom, or the power available to us through His Spirit.  There is always more love, more hope, more power to overcome the things that threaten to wither our leaves.  When we stop following cheap substitutes for Him, we free ourselves to be planted what is eternal.  Rooting our thoughts, ideas, prayers and actions in the flow of His goodness allows us to thrive with healthy roots.  It really is possible to produce season after season of abundant fruit, but we simply can’t truly prosper in the truest sense of the word without Him powering everything.

Friend, I hope this Easter you will just take a moment to consider all that is available to you simply for the asking.  You don’t have to be perfect, or jump through any hoops. You simply get to say “yes” to love, forgiveness, and so much hope.  And here’s an added bonus…when we’re all drawing our strength from the same River, we’re deeply connected to one another too. This network of connectedness to Him is our only hope in a world full of trees with withered leaves.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ross DeMerchant!

Ross-DeMerchant---headshotI’ve been wanting you all to meet a dear friend and trusted confidant of mine, mostly because everyone needs a Ross DeMerchant in his or her life. During the 90s I had the privilege of working with Ross for several years.  He showed me what the term “servant leadership” can look like on a day-to-day basis.

He routinely brought in Perkins muffins (you know, the ones the size of a human head) for random departments around our office building just to be nice.  This wasn’t normal behavior where we worked.

When Ross asks people, “How are you doing?”  he wants an honest answer.   Every single week my social media feed is full of photos of Ross meeting up with people of all ages and from all walks of life simply to encourage them.  His main priority in life could be summed up simply: to love people well. In my opinion, that alone makes him one of the most successful people I know.

During our years working together, I mostly remember a lot of laughter.  I’m not talking polite, office-volume laughter.  I’m talking belly laughing until tears were rolling and my face hurt.  When he was telling stories to our staff, neighboring office workers often checked in to see what all the noise was about because they could hear us howling all the way down the hall.  And when got on the phone with his brother, we braced ourselves for a whole new level hilarity. I almost called an ambulance more than once. “Ross?  Are you breathing??  Say something!”

He loves his family fiercely. He has one of the best marriages I know of. He would make no apology for leaving work if Shirley or one of his kids needed him.  Ross showed me how to be myself, to keep laughing, and to love people well, no matter what else I decided to do with my life.  I am so grateful I had that kind of example to follow before I had kids of my own.

I also need to tell you that Ross is cool, mostly because he is admittedly uncool.  He does the kind of things I do when I’m trying to be smooth, like sticking a swizzle stick up his nose at a fancy-dancy cocktail party.(I don’t mind telling you, it remained lodged there until he removed it by hand!  Yes, that happened!)

Once I had the unprecedented joy of watching him introduce himself to Wayne Watson (remember him?) and let me just say… it played out way differently than Ross had rehearsed it in his mind.  I still DIE laughing every  time I think about it.

Ross DeMerchant

Throughout the years decades after we worked together, life took Ross’s family and my family in different directions but we tried to stay in contact, usually less successfully than we wished.  He and his family experienced some challenging years, and so did we.  Regardless of where we were in life, whenever we and our spouses would reconnect we still kept the joy alive and agreed that loving people is worth the risk, even when they disappoint us.

Not too long ago, we reconnected for a coffee appointment and I could see that Ross was about to birth a really important idea. He had become a grandfather and was starting to realize that if he didn’t write the book brewing inside him, he would be disobeying his calling.  (By the way, if you have an idea burning in your soul like that, you simply must do it.)

Today, little more than 2 years after that coffee appointment, Ross is the author of 26 Letters: How To Have The Conversations of Your Lifetime.  It’s a thoughtful book about leaving your legacy for future generations. Guided by the 26 letters of the alphabet and stories from Ross’s journey, this book helps you consider key words you want to be remembered by and will hopefully prompt you to share your own important stories with your kids, grandkids and the generations that will follow.

Ross is a gifted storyteller (and, in case I hadn’t mentioned it, a funny human being).  But he is also deeply sensitive and tenderhearted, so he knows how to make that turn from a wacky story to a moving, heart-stirring point.  So if you or someone you know happens to be looking for a fresh face to inspire people at a special event or conference, he would be a great chose.  Check him out or contact him here at www.rossdemerchant.com.

I’m not telling you about Ross for any other reason than I think you’ll really like him, and I know he will really like you!  I think his book is such a wonderful way to begin thinking about the things you want to impart to your kids and grandkids while you’ve got time.

Also?  His kids turned out wonderfully.  In fact, Ross’s son was my son’s first boss.  Let me tell you… the apple did not fall far from the tree with that one.  I mention that only because Ross can speak authoritatively on the subjects of leaving an eternal legacy and loving people well, because I have watched him do exactly that – in his family and with those around him – for the 25 years I’ve known him.

I hope you’ll get to know him.  And feel free to let him know I sent you, so maybe he will read my blog!  🙂

Here he is (below) being a charming grandfather. I mean, seriously, this was SO worth stalking his Facebook!
Ross D 2

 

 

 

 

 

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