It would remiss of me to not quickly mention that much of the heart change I've experienced, and am writing about in this post, came after reading two incredible books by some wise women, both of which are listed at the bottom of this blog post. Thank you Christine & Elyse for listening to God, and for helping women like me break free from the bondage of "good."
I love being a stay at home mom. There are so many privileges that come with the territory, and I don't take that for granted. But on some days, I miss working outside the home.
For one, I'm an extreme extrovert, so I miss the adult interaction that comes with an out-of-the-house job. (This is why I love texting. What did our moms do before they could ask a friend to pray for them and get a quick reply? Or send a "this will be funny in about 20 minutes when I'm not so mad!" story and laugh together about something naughty our kids did?) I miss the people, the engaging conversations, and the rhythm of getting up and getting out to work.
I also miss feeling good about myself.
Ick! I know that's not a good thing. But in the workplaces I was in, I felt like I was able to measure my "good." I was a receptionist at a thriving naturopathic office, where I got to interact with patients, pray with them, and encourage them. I worked at a missionary training campus, where I traveled to other countries to serve, and when I was in the states, helped to train other missionaries to go out on the field. My days felt rewarding. I could look back and name the people I impacted, and I knew that my hours counted for something. Yet the difference between where I was at back then, and where I'm often at today, is that back then, I knew that it was ALL God's grace and mercy that I got to do those "good" things. I wasn't exhausting myself trying to make myself feel good; I simply was accepting what God put in front of me and went after it. I ended my days, my feet up on our coffee table while I nestled into our couch, and felt fulfilled by my work. And that's not a bad thing.
My current season of life feels like a different story. I find myself looking back on those years not just feeling grateful for all that the Lord allowed me to be a part of, but also with an unhealthy longing: I want to go back to the days where my "good" was measurable. I compare myself then, to myself now. And according to my (twisted) calculations, Worker Bee Mackenzie was much more useful to God's Kingdom. Her hours added up to something great. She was doing the right things, and it showed in the finished products. She was good. Stay At Home Mom Mackenzie? She is messy. She fumbles through disciplining and laundry-folding, and just plain trying to get out of the house a few times a week. There aren't many finished products; those laundry piles end up in the "dirty" hamper a few days later, those children throw another tantrum over the exact same thing. Stay At Home Mom Mackenzie must not be doing as much good.
I spend many nights sitting on the couch like I did before, except now I don't let myself feel fulfilled. That's the kicker, isn't? I don't let myself. In actually, what I'm "doing in life" right now is very purposeful. I know that, in my head. Raising little hearts, serving my husband as he serves me, doing my best to encourage women through Thrive Moms and spending meaningful time with friends, family, and church community - those are valuable contributions to God's Kingdom. But it doesn't feel good enough. It is not so measurable, as my work was before. And so, as I sit on my couch, it's like I spread out all my deeds and all my hours in front of me, like a deck of cards, counting up all my "good." And because most of it is a work in progress, and most of it no one sees, and most of it I'll do AGAIN tomorrow - I don't think I'm doing enough. I, poisonously, long for the good ol' days of feeling good enough.
This isn't a blog post about working moms versus stay at home moms. It's not a blog post about knowing that wiping sticky faces and diffusing tantrums is GOOD, worthwhile work. It's not even really a blog post about being a mom. Underneath all that, I find a girl who is working really hard to earn her goodness. A girl who wonders if she is good enough. And no matter my role, missionary or mom, or a combination of both - I could work my whole life in order to feel good, and it will never be enough.
Through reading God's word, some hard but wonderful conversations with my husband, and reading a few books (see the end of this post), I'm learning that I actually can't make myself good enough. I never will be able to make my hours count enough. What makes me good, who makes me good is Jesus. Just Him. That. is. it. (My achieving, productivity-obsessed heart, wants to say, "No, there's gotta be something I can do!" But the BEAUTY of it is, that Jesus has already done all the doing, and He has already been "good." Perfect, in fact. So we no longer have to try so up-late, stressed-out, wondering-if-God-actually-likes-us hard.)
Knowing this truth is one thing; living it, that's another. In my head I've probably "known" this truth for a long time. But in the past few weeks, when I've felt like the Lord has been going to town on my heart and just beating me over the head with GRACE, something major has shifted in my heart. And actually, in my home. And I truly feel free.
It's almost as if God double-dog-dared me to believe what He said was true - and when I've begun to take Him up on it, I've found out that grace actually works. Honestly, I feel like a different person inside. It's a little bit crazy. And it's a lot a bit GOOD.
In the past few weeks, I've traded incredible anxiety for the deepest peace I've felt in a very long time. I've begun to stop wishing away the past, and instead I'm genuinely feeling very grateful for these present days. I've stopped trying to do MORE MORE MORE, and I've begun really enjoy my kids and my husband and really enjoy my ministry responsibilities (instead of constantly wondering if I was doing enough or doing it right.) I've even begun to believe that God loves me when I'm doing the dishes or scrolling Instagram or painting my nails.
I no longer feel this crippling pressure to please God; I'm just living as His already loved daughter. I don't have to chase good anymore. I just have to believe the truth. This is the freedom that the Gospel brings. And it's wide open for us. Let's take God at His word when He says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When He gives us work to do, let's go for it! Not because we'll earn anything, but instead for His glory.
If you've made it to the end of this blog post, thanks for sticking with me :) I am so happy to share this victory in my life because I want this same victory for you. If you looked at my life from the outside, a lot of what I do has stayed the same; but inside, my heart has been flipped upside down.
Besides the Bible, I don't know if I've ever been so deeply impacted by two books in my life: Elyse Fitzpatrick's "Good News for Weary Women," and Christine Hoover's "From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. It's like Elyse and Christine were both writing out what has been sitting in my heart, all the striving and the ick - and then they poured out truth and the Gospel.
This next week I'll be sharing an interview with Christine, who's book came out this week! And if you follow me on Instagram, I'll be giving away a copy of her book. So keep an eye out for that. And go get these ladies books, they are amazing.
*affiliate links used