Falling Short, But Moving Forward

As I sit here in my still quiet office space, the world around me is dark.  I am fresh off my morning Bible study and it is only 5:06am.  Last night I found myself at a place of sheer fatigue and frustration, so I put myself to bed at 8:30pm hoping for a long night of sleep, lasting perhaps until well after dawn, only to find my eyes wide open a few minutes before the hour of 4:00am.

There are times where I would have fought and struggled to stay in bed, to fall back asleep.  Then there are times where I just hear in my mind, “Girl, you had better get up, there’s something important for you to do this morning.”

As I sit here writing, one my most favorite things to do, I’ve got a beaming smile on for the Lord, because I’m so glad this is what I was called to this morning.  I was really hoping it wasn’t another load of laundry, another room cleaning, another sink full of dishes, or another event to plan.  Yet, I know that all of these things still lie ahead of me in my day.  Every single one of them is a certainty for me today.

Here is another thing I know with certainty.  I am going to fall short of my own personal expectations on each and every single one of them.  This is not a negative attitude, this is a truth.  I am not going to make as much progress on the laundry, the cleaning, or the work for upcoming events that I am involved it.  I set big expectations and then find that everything takes so much more time than I had previously allocated for it.

Do you ever have this happen to you?  You start about your task, it’s going well, but then you get interrupted or distracted.  Add time.  Time to walk away, time for other people & things, time to remember what you were doing, time to get back into the groove of the work.  Or as you are working, the tasks expands.  One good idea, two good ideas, a few embellishments, some extra detailed work, while you are already this far…you might as well…do a bit more.

We get to the end of the day and well, we just did not get across that finish line we were hoping to run across before falling down on our beds.

I do not know about you, but I tend to be intensely focused on that which I did not accomplish.  I get stuck many days on the distance from where I collapsed in my frustration and fatigue, to the point of my hopeful finish line for the day.   Here is a really crazy thing, if at some point in the day, I get through the things that I was hoping to accomplish I add more and move the finish line out on myself.

I can set myself up for a daily dose of falling short.  When I fall short, I feel it.  I feel it in my body.  I feel it in my mind.  I feel it in my soul.  Fatigue and frustration.  These would be the key words that I associate with falling short.

It makes me weary, especially when I let my focus become what I have not accomplished day, after day, after day.  What do I look like at this point?  Emotional and exhausted.  I do not hide my feelings well.  They show up on my exterior even when I try to hide them.  This is so true of tears.  When I have reached the end of my energy, I can cry over the silliest little things.

My thoughts have a tendency to become very self focused at these points.  I can clearly hear messages like, “no one cares”, “it’s not worth it”, and “why try so hard & give so much, you are not getting what you deserve for it”.  Oh, these are such horrible thoughts to me.  I would like to say that I keep it in my thoughts, but no, it spills out my mouth as well.  This quickly ferments into a good case of regret.

This is something that I battle and struggle with so frequently.  I wonder if I am out of balance, if I have taken on too much, if I need to withdraw myself from being involved in something, and I make an end of the day retreat.  I shut my phone off.  I turn the computer off.  I retreat on a good day to my Bible, a book or to bed.  Other days I stare mindlessly at a movie or show, munching away on junk food in hopes for a quick hit of happiness & maybe laughter, as a self medicated pain reliever.

Many times I wake up the next morning frustrated at myself for not making better choices.  It’s not that I do not know, in my own head, what I should do.  Yet, I continue to make not great choices for myself.  It can feel like being trapped in a vicious cycle.

But, I am not a victim.  I do not have to stay constrained to my weaknesses and shortcomings.  I may be exhausted, but I’m exhausted because I am moving.

One of the greatest conversations of my life happened one time with a dear college professors, a few years after I had graduated.  We were having a discussion where I said at the end of every day I feel on empty, as if I have no energy left.  I felt this was an incredibly bad thing, a red flag that I was doing something wrong every day.  I was seeking advice about any potential changes that needed to be made.

He asked me to really think about what it would mean if my tank was not on empty at the end of the day.  How would I feel if I knew that I had untapped potential that I had access to but chose not to use it in that day?  Don’t I try to use as much of the gas in the tank of my car as I can before I go to the gas station to fill up again?

Granted we do not strive to leave ourselves stranded in the middle of no where with no gas in our car’s gas tank.  The same is true of what we give every day, we do not want to burn ourselves to the point where our bodies shut down and take us no where.  But we also do not get emotional about the need to fill up the car with gas.  When the low fuel light comes on, it does not mean we should start pondering the purchase of a new vehicle.  It does not need to become an emotional “choose life’s path” kind of decision.

In the car we pull into a gas station to refuel.  In our lives we take a break, we go to sleep, we get something to eat, we visit with a friend.  All these and more are ways that we refuel.

In a car, it’s easy to see the miles moved.  In fact it can be downright surprising some weeks to keep track of how many miles we put on that vehicle.  What if we had an odometer for our bodies?  I’m not talking about a pedometer that keeps track of steps, because as someone who spends a lot of time thinking, strategizing how, when & why to do things, and building communication thru websites, newsletters and bulletins, that energy exerted does not always show on a pedometer.

What if we could really measure the forward progress that we made in one day?  Many times there are set backs or that we have to loop back around and try again, but there is still forward progress.  A few years ago I picked up the saying “Progress not Perfection”.  I know I read it, but I don’t know where.  As fast as I could I integrated it into my vocabulary and thoughts.

A win in my life should not be defined by a perfect final presentation.  A hard and solid truth is that God is perfect.  I am wonderfully and frustratingly flawed.  But, what if I kept score by progress made, knowing that the treadmill of life is always spinning, but I am moving forward today.

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When I get repetitively hung up and frustrated day, after day, after day of what I am not getting done or things that are not happening, feeling stuck in a rut, I take a moment to pray, pray, pray for wisdom and guidance, that I could find mind renewal (Romans 12:2).  Then I opt to try one of several things to help me get out of the rut and refresh my focus.

What I Did List: I drop the to do list and write a what I did list.  This may only last for a short portion of my day.  But it is amazing how quickly the tasks and chores can accumulate on there.  Yes, many of the things I do each day will need to be done again, but that’s okay.  It’s not just about the tasks though, I also note the interactions with people.  Chatted briefly with the mailman.  Spoke with my daughter’s teacher.  Called a friend and left a voicemail.  Prayer.  Bible Study.  Card of Encouragement.  A day can hold so much.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.Matthew 6:34 (Message)

Nagging Unfinished Task:  Sometimes I pick the one thing that is driving me absolutely nuts and just get it done.  It’s that one thing that I notice repeatedly over several days.  The thing that makes me want to scream when I look at it, but has not reached priority status.  I deal with it head on.  It could be little things like removing dust from a specific shelf or vacuuming out my minivan, dealing with the email request that I have been avoiding or cleaning out the medicine cabinet.

A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”  Proverbs 13:4 (NIV)

One Part Progress:  There are many things in my life that are works in progress.  There is no way that I could get them done today, even if I set all of today to get it done.  These are things with outstanding decisions to be make, things with moving parts that I am waiting for responses on or for more information to come in or that have task requirements that are perishable & have to be done closer to that specific date.  There are Bible studies I should not read through all at once if I want to get anything out of it.  But I look at these things and ask, is there any ONE thing that I could do today to make progress on this project.  I am usually quite amazed at what even 15 minutes of time can do.

This is what the Lord says: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears,for your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord.”  Jeremiah 31:16

My dear reader, I do not know at all when or where the words that I write will find you.  I do not know if you are plagued by frustration and fatigue.  I do not know if you are weary at the end of your days, or if you find yourself spent by lunch time.  I do not know if you collapse at days end staring off into the distance with only a faint view of the finish line you hoped for in your day.

What I do know is that you made some kind of progress today.  There is really not a day where as a living being we do nothing.  It may not feel good or seem like much in your own mind, but you did something.  Most of each each day make forward movement in our lives.  In may not be in the direction that you thought it would be, but that is okay.  It can be a good thing.  Perhaps you thought it was the work project that you had in mind, but instead you snuggled a sick child and read a book in the doctor’s waiting room.  To me, that is relational progress that counts for a whole lot.

The Bible uses the word “remember” quite often.  Perhaps that is because as flawed people we are quick to forget.  We can easily forget what we have done thus far in one single day, even though it happened just hours ago.  Let’s remember the progress today, not the ways we think we fall short.

Dear and Beloved Lord,

God, You know all too well how often my thoughts list the ways that I fall short.  You also know how quickly these thoughts can be followed by personal criticism or condemnation of myself.  I know there are many times that I need to make better choices, but at the same time, with Your help and strength, I know that I do not make bad choices all the time.  Yet, my mind can get warped and I can start to see a distorted view of myself, my life and my circumstances. 

Lord, I do not know if anyone one out there shares in my struggles.  But, God if they do, bring them relief like a nice spring rain.  Help it to nourish their minds so that good, noble and true thoughts may bloom and flourish there.  May these thoughts be the progress of transformation in their lives.  May they know that if there is nothing more that they can do than breathe in and breathe out that it is not a wasted day.  Each of our days are written in Your book of life.  Just being alive is to move forward, especially when the world we live on spins thousands of mile every day. 

You are incredible Lord.  You have made incredible creations.  Every single reader, myself and every life that surrounds us is an incredible creation.  You don’t just put up with us.  You do not just tolerate us.  You love us.  You cherish us.  You delight in us.  That is absolutely amazing.  May we be in awe of this attribute of You today and may our progress today be that we took some time just to delight in You. 

In the Holy name of Jesus, amen.

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