I’ve been pretty bad.
I told myself that I would work towards all my projects on my never-ending to-do list this summer. I’ve accomplished a few things off my list, but one of the big ones was to write something weekly.
I created this goal to help my writing improve and get back in the habit of writing regularly, especially since this habit all but disappeared while I was a teacher. My personal goal was to write either a blog post, a poem, or work on a poetry book manuscript that has been in the works since my college days. I would have even checked off my weekly task if it included dabbling with a fiction prose piece.
But alas, I’ve slacked off. I haven’t written a blog post each week. My poetry manuscript collects dust. My draft booklet where I jot down poems as they pop in my head needs WD-40 with how rusty the spine is from being unopened.
Somehow, instead of reading or writing, the dirty dishes always seem to catch my eye, or the dogs need to be fed. Then I have to cook dinner, or go grocery shopping. I also try to squeeze in a quick workout. The dryer will chime, announcing clothes need to be folded before they wrinkle, and while I wait for the next cycle to finish, I pick up my phone and venture down the social media rabbit hole. So many mindless, mundane things have gotten in the way from me reaching my weekly goal. Endless excuses and distractions. I don’t even think I opened up my laptop for an entire month. So sad.
The worst part is that I’ve had several ideas pop into my head and inspire me in the moment. A beautiful phrase for a poem would strike me at the most inconvenient times for me to jot it down before I forgot it. A great devotional would come to me while driving home, and I would tell myself I’d start a blog once I got home, but of course, failed to get it written out and I’ve felt convicted by the Holy Spirit several times about that.
One of the reasons why I stepped back from teaching English is that I was so exhausted and burnt out that I couldn’t read things I enjoyed anymore or even spare a brain cell to write. I felt like I had lost a part of me.
This summer I was supposed to reclaim that part of me, but the first half proved to be a little busier than I envisioned. Even though June was a whirlwind, I was able to read some and get at least two blog posts written since I finished teaching. But I just haven’t been reaching that weekly goal for my writing. Sometimes I go over a week without reading either. Then I beat myself up over all those failed goals. I felt that if I didn’t accomplish my weekly plans then I couldn’t regain that lost part of me, which only led to further discouragement.
I actually started re-learning this lesson around the start of July (Oh, yes. This is not the first time God has reminded me to chill out). Our church held Vacation Bible School at the end of June to July 1st. I felt like I was running around the entire month of June, and VBS week was no exception. Guess what happened that week? I skipped the personal Bible study I had been working on. I also failed to pick up a book to read or write anything.
At that point, I was really kicking myself. Here I was a month into summer and I had barely done anything. I felt horrible for not spending time in God’s Word (beyond what I was doing at VBS). I felt lazy for not writing anything besides two posts at the start of summer. The untouched book on my night stand would shame me as I crawled into bed and turned the lamp off.
Then after VBS I head off to my favorite place for a whole week of rest: the mountains. I finished a book. I finally picked up my poetry manuscript for the first time in two years. Also, I finished the last week of the Bible study I had been working on. I’ve completed some Bible studies by Priscilla Shirer before, but the one on Elijah hit me harder than others. If you are looking for your next Bible study, or not familiar with Elijah’s story, or are just wanting to learn more about how awesome, caring, and amazing our God is, then I highly recommend her Elijah Bible study! At the very least, check out 1 Kings 17-19.
The week that I skipped during VBS and made up on my week in the mountains was largely about rest and how God gives us what we need, while reminding us who He is. I had been feeling discouraged, just like Elijah did after running for his life, even though he had just showed a bunch of Baal prophets who the real God is on Mount Carmel. I needed that week’s Bible study lesson on my week of rest. If I had read it during my super busy and exhausting week prior, then I probably would have missed the message. In that moment, I felt God whispering that I am not a long endless to-do list. I am not a machine. I am not on a hamster wheel. I am a Child of God, and if God, our Creator, needed rest on the seventh day, then oh my goodness, my limited human body definitely needs rest from time to time. It’s not healthy to keep going going going 24/7.
It’s okay not to accomplish everything I wanted to in a week. Maybe not to let things sit as long as I have…(remember, I told you I had been slack), but to keep working towards those goals, even if I do need to stop, rest, and eat, along the way.
I was so focused on the end result and discouraged I wasn’t further along in my plans that I ignored all the progress along the way. Since May, I now get excited to pick a new book to read. I have written more this summer alone than I have since May 2020. I feel relaxed at the end of each work day. My weekends are restful and anxiety-free. I enjoy what I do each day. I have more energy when I get home. I’ve been able to be a better wife and help out around the house more without feeling the world on my shoulders. I have felt more like myself and can truly sit down and enjoy a sunset again.
So I haven’t met my weekly writing goal each week, but I have made lots of progress along the way. My restoration summer hasn’t been filled with great writing products, but I have been restored in other ways. I’ve been diving into God’s Word and learning more and more that there is time for everything. Each time I open up my Bible, attend Sunday school, go to church, work through a Bible study, pray, I learn something new about God, and sometimes I need a reminder of something I had forgotten along the way.
The writing will come. I’ve learned to give myself some grace and not expect perfection or instant fixes. It’s okay to rest. I don’t have to accomplish a new project every week.
The key is to not let all the distractions to consume me though. I don’t want to keep skipping the nudges from the Holy Spirit when I get an idea to write a blog, and I certainly don’t want to become so busy I start losing myself again. As I’m learning this new life routine, I don’t want to get to the point where my cup is so empty from not taking time to do the things that I enjoy. The word that keeps coming to me in this new season is balance, and I am content with knowing I have not mastered that new task yet. I will always be a work in progress, and I’m okay with it. God isn’t finished with me, and I am so grateful for His teaching.
Paul encouraged the church in Philippi: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). This verse reminds me God is still working on me and through me, and that is a beautiful reminder through my failed attempts at completing to-do lists. With God, I never want to be done.
Link to Elijah Bible Study by Priscilla Shirer: https://www.lifeway.com/en/product-family/elijah-bible-study.html