on capacity and grace

basket-of-randomi’m sometimes appalled at the way that i speak to myself, and the ways i think of myself. one area in which i tend to judge myself pretty harshly is in regard to my capacity to do and be all the things.

when tim (or anyone, really) makes a request of me — a request that is, objectively speaking and when isolated, a truly minor request — and my first response is to feel utterly overwhelmed, my first impulse is to declare judgement on myself for not having a higher capacity to engage in what he’s asking of me. i go to feelings of shame over my underperformance and guilt over my reluctance to say yes, and i accuse myself of not being loving enough or self-sacrificial enough to do it, even when i feel like saying yes is too much.

i’m sure there are many layers of things going on here. like my personality type — I’m an INFJ on the MBTI, and apparently my type is pretty prone to feelings over overwhelm. That’s helpful to know; at least I’m not alone in this crazy. I’m also an Enneagram Type 4, which means that I circle round again and again to the core lie that I’m somehow fundamentally broken; something is wrong with me and it is probably not fixable. i’m set up by these things to be prone toward overwhelm and subsequent harsh self-judgement about that overwhelm. if only insight were enough to cure the disease!

sometimes i try to take a more rational look at things. i make lists in my head of all the things that i AM managing. the list looks something like this, in no particular order:

  • keeping the house stocked with all the things every person might need for any occasion (clothes, seasonal attire and gear, toiletries, medicine, paper goods, craft supplies, etc.)
  • knowing and seeing our three young children so that i can parent them in sensitive and appropriate ways in all their developmental stages and temperamental needs (ideally without passing on any generational sins/wounds as i go!)
  • meal planning, writing grocery lists, ordering/shopping for groceries
  • cooking 80% of the meals for the family (plus occasional community meals)
  • keeping communication with hazel’s school and ensuring she has transportation to and from each day
  • dressing my children almost every day (if you knew how much resistance i get from them on this, you’d count it as an accomplishment too) and sometimes bathing them (probably far too infrequently)
  • maintaining a home that is lovely and relatively tidy (even though i’m not awesome at cleaning, and besides, trying to clean with toddlers around is like brushing your teeth while eating an oreo, amiright?)
  • keeping up with all our budgeting, banking, and bill paying
  • managing my own small business in just 5 guaranteed hours of kid-free office hours each week, plus stolen moments while kids are sleeping (there would be an entire sub-list here for all the things involved in this, but i won’t bore you).
  • being a sounding board and advisor to my husband for his decision-making  and dreaming processes for the ministry he oversees
  • all the laundry. there is so much laundry
  • being a decent friend to a handful of women i love, whether in person or virtually
  • faithfully attending and participating in a weekly bible study with 8 other mamas and their littles, plus a weekly discipleship group for accountability and prayer
  • bringing meals to new parents and throwing mother blessings for pregnant friends
  • photographing a couple births per month (which also means being on call around the clock) and a few families
  • planning and organizing the social calendar for our family
  • breastfeeding a baby around the clock (including 2-4 night feedings)
  • cleaning up the 2-year-old’s poop and pee accidents, and picking up a million spills and messes a day (some intentional and some oops)
  • attempting to have meaningful teachable moments with my tiny disciples (the kids)
  • connecting with my husband in meaningful ways as often as possible, and doing so with something better than my left-overs
  • fixing crap that breaks
  • documenting the life of our family in photographs, then editing and organizing them and turning them into printed photo books
  • reading a bit of scripture and mumbling a few prayers
  • bedtime for the kids (you know this has to be done every single night? and that it takes usually at least an hour?! why don’t they tell you this before you have kids?!)
  • schlepping the kids (often by myself) to and from three church gatherings each week, or hosting them in my home, and being present in meaningful ways to God the people and events that unfold there
  • planning our trips to visit far-off family, and our annual summer vacation
  • feeble attempts at self-care  (journaling, pleasure reading, baths, a coffee date with a girlfriend)

i read that list to myself and i remind myself that i actually have really, really high capacity. the trouble isn’t that i lack capacity; it is that i am already at capacity.

and yet there are still a million dreams and ideas cycling through my head space. i have so many good ideas, things that i get excited about and would love to give my time and energy to. not to mention the dreams and ideas people close to me sometimes have for me.

but i just can’t. there are more “no”s being said here than i’d prefer to say.

this post sounds terribly self-indulgent, i fear. i do recognize that i’m not alone in the scenario i just laid out here. it’s probable that your list is every bit as long as mine, and possibly even longer. and the list… oh, it doesn’t even take into account the psychological and emotional stuff that rises up unbidden and paralyzes you mid-stream, rendering you useless for an entire day. nor does it account for the understate ill effects of interrupted sleep daily for over a year. the struggle is real.

i don’t even have a tidy way to wrap this up.

except that in spite of all of the above, i don’t want to be a whiner. i want to be a fountain, not a drain. i want to have grace for myself and freedom to say no without guilt. i want to do and be things that matter to the people in my life. i want to feel that i’m enough.

i need to experience the sufficiency of Christ at work in me, equipping me for good deeds that He prepared in advance for me to do. i need to know that He is enough, even when i’m clearly not. i don’t want to glorify busy, i want to break it (actually, i recently purchased a book by that title; maybe it’s time to read it).

and if you relate, you’re not alone. sometimes i think one of my main gifts to the world is the willingness to let others see the mess within and around me and to say, “me, too.”


One thought on “on capacity and grace

  1. brooke, i just love how the holy spirit works…and how these words hit home more than you may realize. and i’m sure i’m not alone from those who will also read these words.

    i loved the statement that you shared near the end, “i want to be a fountain”.

    i can only imagine how delighted Jesus is in those words, as you desire to be overflowing with satisfaction, contentment, and grace only found in Him.

    but just so you know, you already are a fountain, brooke.


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