Work

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.


Creating Margin When Life Overwhelms

Creating Margin When Life Overwhelms // by Leslie Ann Jones

Life has been busy lately. So. Busy.

Between teaching two Bible studies at church, helping plan the annual preschool fundraiser, battling strep throat in the house, washing (but not folding) the laundry, selling and delivering Girl Scout cookies, doing all. the. things. for Dr. Seuss' birthday week, sorting old clothes for consignment, acquiring new clothes in the appropriate sizes, and juggling soccer practice, softball practice, birthday parties, church, and school, all while keeping us fed and alive, I'm spent. 

There's just not much of me left to go around these days.

I'm telling you all of this so you'll know why things have been quiet around here lately. There's so much I want to share with you about what God is teaching me, but I simply haven't had time to sit down and let it all spill out.

There was a time when I would have run myself into the ground posting new content here each week while also trying to do everything else, but I've learned that I create my best work when there's a bit of margin in my life. I need time and space to breathe freely and listen closely before I can write words that convict and compel. I'm currently overwhelmed by life, and, at this moment in time, margin is hard to find. So, I've created some by giving myself permission to take a little blogging break. 

I think sometimes we women like to act like we have everything together, but behind the scenes we're falling apart. God forbid anyone find out that we're imperfect people. I don't want to be like that. I want you to know that I'm a real person with real struggles. My life isn't insta-perfect all the time—it's messy and rough around the edges and more than a little crazy.

I know I'm not alone in this. Nearly every mama I talk to struggles with The Overwhelm from time to time. It's normal and even necessary every now and then, but I think it's important to fight for the things that your soul needs. Even during busy seasons. For me, it's margin—empty space in my planner and quiet moments alone to simply be. No striving, no doing. Just me and God and a bit of stillness...and maybe a cup of coffee too.

What is it that your soul needs? What do you crave when life overwhelms? How do you create margin when things get crazy? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

And in case you were wondering, I'll be spending the time I usually spend writing preparing my heart and mind for teaching Known, an in-depth Bible study on the gospel of John to a group of local women.

Both the workbook and our weekly sessions are available online, and we would love for you to join us. You can access the Known workbook and weekly podcast at leslieannjones.com/known.

Thanks for bearing with me during this busy season! Hopefully I'll be back to posting regularly again soon...just not yet.

Until next time, grace and peace.


Hello Old Friends

IMG_0114

Changes are afoot in the Jones household. Most notably, little Miss Micah is starting preschool next week. I know. Preschool for an almost two-year-old? And the answer is yes.

For far too long, I've been trying to do everything. I thought that being more disciplined would help me get more accomplished, but in actuality, it hasn't. It was a tough decision to send Micah to preschool, but I think it's best for all of us.

She'll spend her mornings at the daycare, during which time I'll hopefully focus on my ongoing writing projects and social networking (including this here blog). Then I'll pick her up, we'll eat lunch together, and she'll go down for a nap. During which time I'll focus on designing and creating pretty paper. Then she'll wake up from her nap, and my workday will be over. We'll play together until Dennis gets home, then I'll make a nice home-cooked meal, she'll get a bath and go to bed, and Dennis and I will have some much-needed time together before we go to bed. Together.

That's the plan anyway.

As it stands now, after we get up and eat breakfast, we watch a bit of Sesame Street (that's what Micah's doing in the picture above), and then we both head into the office where I try to work while Micah clambers all over me. I try to keep her from coloring on the walls and pulling all the books off my shelves. We somehow make it through the morning, me ignoring her for the most part, and then we shovel food in for lunch, and I throw her into bed so I can finally get some work done. Except the small window of time that is her nap is never enough for me to cross off everything on my list, so when she wakes up, we're usually back in the office together until Dennis gets home, and then I'm back in here after she goes to bed, while Dennis hangs out in the den alone and then goes to bed alone. I then work into the wee hours in the morning before falling into bed. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Not exactly familial bliss, if you know what I mean.

Something had to give. So I gave up trying to do everything.

I'm excited for Micah, because I know she'll love playing with some other kiddos her age, and she'll thrive in the structured environment. I'm also a touch sad, because in a way it feels like I've somehow failed. I know that's not the truth, but sometimes feelings speak pretty loudly.

She's not a baby anymore. She's a little girl. This is just one part of growing up.

We'll survive. I may be a blubbering mess come Monday, but it's the best thing for us right now.

How's that for a change?

Until next time, grace and peace.