Life

All the Ways I'm Not Enough

All the Ways I'm Not Enough by Leslie Ann Jones

I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but since we’re all friends here, I feel like it’s a safe place to say that a few days ago, I cleaned our master bathroom for the first time since early December. And actually, now that I think about it, when I cleaned the bathroom in December, I don’t think I cleaned the shower or bathtub. Just the counters, sinks, and toilet. You can imagine how truly gross things had gotten.

Don’t judge me.

Now, I would normally never ever admit these things out loud. Much less put them on the internet for all the world to see, but I feel compelled to put this little snapshot of the real me out there.

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? Hi, my name is Leslie Ann, and even though I’m more than a little OCD about clearing away clutter, I’m a total slacker when it comes to actual cleaning.

Here are some of the other problems I’m currently dealing with: I’m naturally a night owl who would rather stay up until 2 a.m. working on a project than rise early to get a jumpstart on the day. I’m a perfectionist who sometimes lets fear of failure keep me from chasing dreams. I also have a very real issue with pride, owning mistakes, and admitting that I don’t in fact have a clue what I’m doing most of the time.

Early last month, my friend Meredith and I were texting, and I told her that I was feeling overwhelmed by life. Between preparing for a workshop last weekend, writing a series on spiritual disciplines, developing a marketing plan for Muscadine Press, finding a new printer for our journals, getting ready to resume teaching 1 Samuel at church, dreaming up and planning for new product releases in June, and preparing to exhibit at a market in Birmingham next month, my plate was overloaded. When I added in the regular stuff of everyday life like cleaning bathrooms, buying groceries, taking kids to practice, and cooking dinner, it felt impossible.

So Meredith and I were texting, and I gave her the same laundry list I just gave you. And then I said this: “Maybe it’ll be all right. By the grace of God. And the work of the Holy Spirit.” Truth be told, I said it a bit flippantly. Because that’s the sort of thing that good Christians are supposed to say when they’re overwhelmed. “God’s got this. It’s going to be OK. No worries.”

But then, y’all, I started wondering what would happen if I actually lived like I believed what I just said. What if, instead of trying to bootstrap it, I started praying for God to enable me? What if, instead of trying to do things in my own strength, I started asking for the Holy Spirit to empower me? How would things be different? Would they be better?

For a long time now, I’ve been trucking along doing life by the strength of my own will. I’m pretty stubborn, and I don’t admit defeat easily, so even though I was dropping balls left and right, I refused to acknowledge that I just couldn’t do it on my own.

But last month, I finally let go. And God is amazing me with his grace.

It started with a growing conviction that I needed to put my big girl panties on and become a morning person, like it or not. Now, I’ve tried this more than once over the years, but because I work from home and my schedule is flexible and my tendencies didn’t really affect anyone but me, I was OK with keeping things the way they were.

But it wasn’t working anymore. This deserves a post of its own someday, so for now, just trust me when I say that something had to give. I started praying for God to help me. I admitted that I couldn’t do it. That I didn’t want to do it. But that I knew I needed to.

When You Don't Feel Like You're Enough - And Why That's a Good Thing

And y’all. By his grace, he’s changing me. I’m not strong enough to resist the temptation to crawl back into bed each morning. I know this because I’ve spent a lot of years not resisting the temptation. But when I started praying for God to give me the strength, he did.

I’m not enough, but he is.

This little change has been HUGE for me. I’ve spent more consistent time in Bible study and prayer in the past month than I have in years. I’ve had more time to work productively while the girls are at school. And to actually use my gym membership. And to start making progress on that long, long list of things that I had given Meredith.

Making the best use of my mornings means that I can devote afternoons and evenings to our family and home. Hence the bathroom cleaning. And random board games with the girls after school. Meals around the table that I’ve actually planned and shopped for. And a fresh sense of humility and awareness of my own shortcomings.

As long as I insisted that I didn’t need any help, I didn’t get any, and our whole family suffered for it. Trust me when I say that life is better this way, relying on God to give me the strength and fortitude for each new day to become the kind of person that he has always intended me to be.

I say all of this just to let you know that if you’re floundering, you’re not alone. So many of us, I think, struggle to keep it together and do all the things. We feel like we’re simply not enough, and friend, I’m here to tell you that you feel that way because you’re not. There’s a well-intentioned message out there that says “You are enough, just as you are. You’re good enough. You’re strong enough. You’ve got this.”

And while I appreciate what they’re trying to say—that you don’t have to be perfect to be loved and you don’t have to be all the things for all the people all the time—it falls short of the truth.

“When we reach the end of ourselves and come up wanting, that’s when we can finally and fully recognize how much we need God. Our lack forces us to reach out and rely on him instead of our own strength.”   Leslie Ann Jones

The truth is that we are not enough. We are limited human beings, and we aren’t good enough, strong enough, kind enough, loving enough, gracious enough, patient enough, faithful enough, tough enough, committed enough, or able enough to be the kind of person and do the kind of things that God intends for us.

And here’s the kicker: we were made this way on purpose. We’re supposed to feel our lack, our not-enoughness, because when we reach the end of ourselves and come up wanting, that’s when we can finally and fully recognize how much we need God. Our lack forces us to reach out and rely on him instead of our own strength.

Though we are limited, he is limitless. He has no shortage of goodness, strength, kindness, love, grace, patience, faithfulness, toughness, commitment, or ability. He has all of those things in abundant supply, and only in him, are we ever enough.

So maybe it’s better for us to say that Jesus is enough. Only when I’m in Christ, will I ever be enough, because he fills up my lack. I’m not strong enough to resist temptation, but he is. I’m not good enough to be good enough, but he is. I’m not able to save myself from myself, but he is.

I am not enough, and I never will be, but that’s OK, because Jesus is. And he’s faithful to give us just what we need right when we need it. We need only ask.

Until next time, grace and peace.


Five Things I Want My Daughters to Know

Five Things I Want my Daughters to Know // by Leslie Ann Jones

Parenting has never been easy, I know, but it seems extra challenging these days. This world seems intent on making our babies grow up too fast, and we're constantly pushing back against the messages they're taking in every day. As parents trying to raise children in a way that honors and points to Christ, it's our job to replace those messages with Truth.

They're growing up, and it's happening fast. Before long, they'll leave the safety of our home and venture out into the big, wide world, and these are the things that I want them to know deep, deep down in their hearts when they go.

 

1. You Are So Very Loved

More than anything, I want my girls to know that they are loved. They are loved by me. They are loved by their dad. They are loved by their grandparents. They are loved by their aunts and uncles. They are loved by their cousins. They are loved by their friends. They are loved by their church family. And, most importantly, they are loved by God. 

We all want to be loved (go ahead, cue the old school DC Talk); it's a God-given desire that's hard-wired into our systems. Our need to be seen, to be noticed, to be known, and to be loved is part of our design. God has made us to crave the very thing that he provides in endless supply.

God's love for us is a "Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love" (Sally Lloyd-Jones). He has seen us at our most unlovely, and, here's the kicker, he has loved us anyway. This is a great relief, because it means that his love for us isn't dependent on how good or funny or perfect or pretty or witty we are. It's dependent on his faithfulness. God loves us because he loves us. Period.

I didn't understand that kind of love until I became a parent, but now that I'm a mother, I can't imagine it any other way. With every lunch I pack, ponytail I fix, book I read, and bath I give, I am showing them what faithful love looks like. I love them when they are willfully disobedient and I love them when they behave like angels. Nothing they do could ever make me love them more—or less—than I already do. I love them because I love them. Period.

"For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8, ESV)

 

2. Pretty Comes from The Inside

Every little girl, and grown woman for that matter, wants to feel pretty. My girls were barely walking when they began swishing their skirts and playing with my makeup in front of the mirror. 

"Do I look pretty, Mama?" is a fairly common question around here. And of course, the answer is always, "YES!" But whenever it arises, I have a follow-up ready: "Where does pretty come from?" They roll their eyes but answer me anyway, "Pretty comes from the inside, Mama." "That's right!" I answer. "Pretty isn't about how you look. It's about who you are."

I say it out loud, and I say it often, because I want them to know the Truth. It's not the dress or the lip gloss that makes them beautiful. It's the joy that makes their eyes sparkle and the kindness that softens their features. It's the confidence that comes from knowing that they're loved and the radiance that exudes from them when they pursue their passions. I could go on and on and on here, but you get the point.

Their beauty stems from the character that God is shaping within them—how they look on any given day has nothing to do with it.

"Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight, is very precious." (1 Peter 3:3-4, ESV)

 

3. You Can Do Hard Things

A couple of summers ago, I spent every morning in the shallow end of the pool, trying to help our youngest daughter swim. The struggle was real, y'all. It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was quite exasperating. I knew that if she would just let go of her fear, she could master swimming, but she couldn't do it as long as she believed that she couldn't. So I taught her something else to believe instead. 

Here's the conversation we had about 6,839 times that summer.

"I can't do it, Mommy! I'm scared!"

"I know you are sweetie. But what else are you?"

"I am brave. I am tough. I am strong."

"That's right, sweet girl. You are. And what can you do?"

"I can do hard things."

"Yes. Yes, you can. I'll be right here beside you."

Before she could swim, she needed to believe both in her ability to do it and in my ability to help her. It took a lot of convincing and reassurance, but she eventually got there. And just so you know, she swims like a fish these days. She even got to compete on our little pool's swim team this summer, and she had a blast. Watching her swim 25 meters basically on her own made me so proud, because I knew exactly how much she had overcome to get there.

Here's the thing. Sometimes the tasks we face can be pretty daunting, even downright scary, but that doesn't mean that we can't do them. It just means that we might need to work a little harder, and maybe ask for some outside assistance, to get it done. The truth is that God sometimes gives us a task that we absolutely cannot accomplish on our own. We can only do it with a little perseverance and a lot of his help, and that's OK. Because when we are weak, he is strong.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV)

 

4. Nobody's Perfect

I feel obligated to go ahead and add "except Jesus" to the end of this one because I know that some of you are thinking it. Hold your horses, though. I'll get there in a minute.

Because perfectionism is one of my biggest struggles, it breaks my heart to see it emerging in our oldest daughter. One word of correction or wrong answer on a test can send that child into a tailspin. I watch her striving and struggling to be the best, and when she inevitably fails (because that's life), devastation follows.

Now, I'm not saying that I don't want my girls to do their best or to work hard. Of course I do! But perfectionism takes a healthy desire to perform well and twists it into an unhealthy obsession with impossibly high standards. It's debilitating and exhausting and a burden that we were never meant to carry.

I want my children to learn how to fail, and to do it with grace. To know that they're not going to be the best at everything. They won't make a 100 on every single test. They will make mistakes. They will mess up. They will not win every game. And that's OK.

Because newsflash. We're human. We have limits. There are things that are simply beyond us. Only when we finally accept that Truth can we lean in to the grace that God gives us for this very reason. God does not expect us, nor does he ask us to be perfect, because he knows that it is beyond our capabilities. He is perfect, so we don't have to be. The sooner we accept it, the better.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)

 

5. Love is a Choice Worth Making

I don't know what it's like at your house, but in ours, this one is particularly challenging in the playroom, where fights constantly erupt over who gets to choose the game or play with the best Barbie. Selfishness, pride, and hurt feelings are the culprits behind most of our battles, and when they raise their ugly heads, we do our best to replace them with love.

Love doesn't always come naturally, but choosing to love—especially when we don't feel like it, or we think we've been wronged, or the other person doesn't deserve it—is always worth it. Sometimes love is a sacrifice that feels too big to make, but it's our best chance to show the world what Jesus is like. We love each other well so that others may see and know the love of God working in us.

It's important, y'all. We practice loving well at home in the hope that it bleeds over into our outside lives as well. We do this by...

  • Sharing our favorite things.
  • Choosing kindness instead of lashing out.
  • Giving grace and offering forgiveness.
  • Using words to build up rather than destroy.
  • Generously showing physical affection.
  • Spending time together.
  • Listening to one another.
  • Celebrating victories together.
  • Sharing in each other's pain.
  • Being good helpers.

These are small things, I know, but all together, they will transform your home into a place of peace, safety, and warmth. We want our home to be a safe haven not just for our girls, but also for anyone who walks through the door. For that to happen, it must be a place where love abounds.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35, ESV)

 

As parents, it's our job to prepare our children for the world out there. We're getting there bit by bit. These five things are the foundation for all the other lessons we'll have to teach them along the way. We'll get to those eventually...for now, this is a good place to start.

Until next time, grace and peace.


Producers of Praise, Wanderers of Wonder

"The chief aim of worship is that we be caught up in love, in wonder, and praise of God and finally for a moment forget about ourselves and our trials and our worries and focus on God himself." Ben Witherington III (via leslieannjones.com)

One of the best parts of seminary is sitting under the teaching of world-renowned biblical scholars. It's what I miss the most about my days at Beeson. As a busy mom, I'm incredibly thankful for churches and ministries that provide sermons and lectures online. I spend a lot of time in the car, shuttling the girls around town, and in an effort to redeem some of that time, I've started listening to podcasts while I drive. 

Last week, I planned to run some errands after preschool dropoff, so before I left the school, I pulled up a 30-minute chapel sermon to listen to along the way. It was a sermon about worship from New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III. He shared a story about a little old lady in his home church who could hardly see or hear but persisted in coming to worship anyway. When someone asked her why she continued to come, despite her physical limitations, she had a ready answer.

Y'all.

Her words had tears welling up in my eyes. I sat in the parking lot of Home Depot watching people load up with mulch and gardening tools, and I was completely transfixed by the message coming out of my speakers.

"I'm not here for what I can get out of the service, but what I came to give: my worship to my Lord...I come to worship prepared to give worship though I don't get as much as I used to in that hour."

Witherington goes on to say that when we come to worship looking to get something rather than give something, we're missing the point. We are not consumers of worship. We're producers of it. 

"The chief aim of worship," Witherington says, "is that we be caught up in love, in wonder, and praise of God and finally for a moment forget about ourselves and our trials and our worries and focus on God himself."

I need that. Do you?

I've written before about why we should go to church even when don't feel like it, and this sermon gets right to the heart of it. Church is not about us. It's about God. When I come to church, I come to give time, attention, honor, and glory to the one who has rescued and redeemed me.

When I turn my eyes to him and gaze full on at his glory, everything else seems a bit less urgent and pressing. It's relief. It's surrender. It's getting so lost in him that everything else fades away.

At least for a little while.

People are always looking for an escape from the reality of life. Some find it in music, art, and books. Others find it in travel and adventure. Still others find it in more profane activities like drinking or sex. I've pursued some of those remedies myself, and though they can be quite enjoyable, none of them give me what I actually need. 

What I actually need is to get outside of myself and seek refuge in the Rock that's higher than I. To wander in the wonder of his majesty. I've found nothing more restorative for my weary soul than glorying in the splendor of my Lord, and therein lies the astounding truth. When we give our whole selves to God and honor him in worship, he honors us by giving us the respite that our souls require. 

God demands our adoration and praise. Don't you think it's interesting that the very thing he requires of us is the only thing that fulfills the deepest longings of our restless hearts? 

I've included the video of the sermon below. If you have about 30 minutes, you really should listen to the whole thing, but if you only have a few, fast forward to about the 12:35 mark and start from there. 

Until next time, grace and peace.