If you are like most women, you are your own worst critic. Being hard on ourselves is what we do. If you live your life never feeling like what you do is enough, then read on, friend! Finding freedom from our own expectations is not impossible.Here are some questions to ask to help find freedom from your own expectations.
Let’s just cut right to the chase. We all have the propensity to heap unhealthy expectations on ourselves. Certain events and influences from our past can increase that tendency. Ultimately, visiting those places in our lives can bring healing, but there are a few truths that we can all grab hold of now that can help us begin to break free.
Do I know my purpose?
Sometimes, we have expectations of ourselves that are outside our purpose. If I was a photographer, but I struggled with nagging thoughts like, “I don’t rescue enough people from burning buildings,” you would tell me to stick with my pictures and leave the rescues to firefighters. If I know clearly my purpose, then I can weed out other demands that inevitably fight for my attention. Are you clear on your purpose? If not, you may feel like you should do everything to cover your bases. That’s exhausting. Find your purpose.
Am I pressured by the success of other women?
Comparing can overwhelm us. Social media compounds that issue by constantly bombarding us with a filtered version of everyone’s best. Somehow, we think we should not only reach our goals for our own purpose, but do what other women are doing, as well. Besides not being realistic, that’s not healthy. The result? We live splintered lives, unable to do anything well as we attempt to do it all. And we’re exhausted. Run your race without comparing.
Do I know that the world will keep turning if I stop?
Ever find yourself thinking, “if I don’t do it, nobody will” ? Perhaps, like me, you say it out loud, taking on a superwoman voice as you do. When we believe we are the only one who will or can do something, we might have an inflated view of ourselves. Yes, there are things that we have to do, but, based on the truth that “I” cannot do everything, there are others that must go. Someone else will and can. This might mean recruiting, and even training, your replacement. Perhaps an unrealistic expectation you placed on yourself is part of someone else’s purpose. Let them have it.
Is God expecting this of me?
It would be cruel of a father to demand something from a child and then not give that child the time or resources to do it. If God has given you a task or responsibility, He will also equip you with what’s needed—including time. We beat ourselves up thinking, “if I could just figure out how to manage my time better, I could get it all done,” when in reality we are overloaded with things never given to us by our Savior. He is a good father who is not trying to work you to death and is certainly not demanding perfection. In fact, He wants you to rest.
At times, we are overwhelmed by demands in life we cannot control, such as an illness or loss. During these times, our expectations of ourselves change; they should change. Our focus becomes rest and healing. Yet, even during these times, we can expect too much of ourselves instead of walking in His mercy and grace.
At other times, we heap unhealthy expectations on ourselves unknowingly. Our desire to nurture, to help, to love and to be needed clouds our vision. We try harder and harder to do more than we were designed to do. Outside of God’s purpose, we find defeat and exhaustion.
Jesus reminds us that He wants us working alongside Him—not running around trying to impress Him. When He tells us that His yoke is easy, He is giving us a picture of being yoked with Him, as two oxen were when plowing. Together, moving forward together.
I believe He has the field already picked out and the seed ready. Are you where God wants you, or are you busy with work you heaped on yourself? Are you exhausted from trying to get it together? Ask the Father for clarity.
For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. – Philippians 2:13
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10
This post originally posted here.
Marianna Dollyhigh is a pastor's wife and mom to six. She blogs at Messy Journey where this blog post was first featured and shared by Flourish.
Q: I am tired of struggling financially. Our salary meets our basic needs, but money is always tight. Today I had to tell my son that we can no longer afford to have him participate in the sport he loves. We have been in the ministry since we married 12 years ago. We pastor a small church. The loving people in our congregation can only afford to pay us a small salary. I am the church administrative assistant and work full-time but receive only a part-time salary. I don’t know how much longer I can stand the financial strain on our household.
A: Financial worries can be emotionally draining and relentlessly stressful. At the same time many people feel it necessary to hide their struggles out of shame. Thank you for your honesty. I assume that you, like most people entering the ministry, have made peace with the likelihood you will not accumulate wealth. However, after a sustained time of scrimping and doing without while others seem to thrive, frustration can easily come.
You mentioned that your salary meets your basic needs, so I am going to respond from that perspective. (If you were lacking in basic needs such as groceries or shelter, I would suggest that you address those needs first by letting your congregation and your district know and by reaching out for assistance wherever it is available in your community.)
A major contributing factor to financial stress is not so much the dollars you earn as it is the reality that our culture strongly celebrates both accumulation and immediate gratification. This tide threatens to sweep us all along toward obtaining more stuff and better technology. Though we know cognitively that possessions do not bring happiness, it certainly appears like they do in commercials and advertisements. It takes a conscious effort to turn our eyes away from those things and to remind ourselves that true joy comes only from the One we serve who continually reminded us He will meet all of our needs.
There is no shame in living simply and frugally. At the same time, there is no shame in honestly admitting to others that you have financial limitations. If this is your reality, then speaking the truth about that will free you from the stress of hiding it. Do not allow the pressure of unspoken expectations to add to your worries. For example, it is common to socialize by going out for dinner or spending recreational time with friends. This presents a dilemma for our financial challenges if we make plans that exceed what we can afford. Find ways to matter-of-factly clarify where your limits lie or suggest less costly alternatives.
Beware of comparisons. Comparisons bring discontentment. Remain vigilant about this because it is so easy to fall into this trap. Observing what other people enjoy can so easily bring envy and longing because it seems like the object or the experience of their enjoyment would do so much to enrich our own lives. Remind yourself of what you already know: that no thing or recreational experience can ever bring lasting happiness, health, or contentment.
Again, financial stress lies not so much in what we have, but in what we believe about what we have. Attitude toward financial success plays the biggest factor in interpreting our situation. Prayerfully ask God to reveal false beliefs that bring discouragement like:
I suggest seeking some outside input regarding your financial situation. Find a reputable class on personal finance or a financial advisor who can put fresh eyes on your situation. He/she could recommend the best way to catch up on those bills as well as find ways to bring you greater freedom. Some simple adjustments might bring relief fairly quickly.
Pray about creative ways to supplement your income. Revisit with your husband your decision to work at the church office and explore other options you might pursue. On the other hand, consider cutting back your hours at the church to match your part-time salary, allowing you to supplement your income in other ways. If creative ideas seem scarce, ask for outside advice from people whom you financially admire.
Remember that you are modeling your values to your child. No doubt he will be disappointed that he cannot join his team. However, he will not suffer any lifelong ill effects from missing sports unless you model for him a perspective that teaches him to be devastated by it. In other words, he will take his cue from you as to how consuming this disappointment is. If you matter-of-factly acknowledge his feelings, while at the same time urging him to cooperate with the family in financial decisions, you will teach him lifelong lessons.
Finally, in no way do I want to sound cliché; however, the call to ministry carries an inherent dependence on faith in God’s provision. While it requires a higher level of trust, it will also reap a deeper dependence on Him. In times of financial blessing or in times of financial challenge, we still serve the same God who has promised to take care of us. While we should strive to continually gain more wisdom in all things, including financial, we have no choice but to trust Him along the way.
I had noticed her looking at him, laughing a little too loud, practically swooning over the brilliance of his sermons and cleverness of his insights. But she was my good friend, and I didn’t consider it flirting, especially since my husband paid no attention to her whatsoever. She was just vivacious and outgoing. My Bible study leader in our church (I’ll call her Ruth), was a trusted mentor and friend to me. She was the age of my own mom and had unusual spiritual maturity and discernment. So, I wasn’t surprised when she spoke very directly to me one day about my friend’s behavior. She had noticed and picked up on it instantly. I remember sitting at Ruth’s kitchen table with her eyes staring into mine, saying “Susie, you have to help your husband. You are his “safeguard” – your very presence can diffuse situations like this. Your relationship with him is God’s provision of protecting him from temptation. Don’t be foolish and ignore this, you need to bring it to his attention, talk with him about it and decide how you will handle it.” I thought about Ruth’s comments all day and have replayed that conversation in my mind hundreds of times since then. How wise and discerning she was and I am forever grateful for her directness and exhortation to a young and sometimes naïve pastor’s wife.
The word “safeguard” is defined as something that serves as a protection, defense or that ensures safety (www.dictionary.com). Ruth was right on target, as usual. Husbands and wives are each other’s “safeguards” against the temptations of the enemy. Make no mistake about it – Satan is the prowling lion seeking to destroy testimonies and lives, especially of those in ministry. Paul supports this concept in 1 Cor. 7: 1-6. Our bodies exclusively belong to one another, and our physical relationship is designed to bring us fulfillment within the boundaries of marriage. Guarding that is our charge, so that Satan will not have an opportunity to tempt us (vs. 7). I took Ruth’s warning as a wakeup call to be more intentional in being my husbands “safeguard”.
That evening my husband came home from the office, with a large box of homemade cookies, delivered by my friend to the church office that morning. (He had mentioned in his sermon on Sunday how much he loved chocolate chip cookies). Well, something happened to me when I saw that box. I was suddenly livid! I ripped the top off and said, “You want cookies? I’ll give you cookies!!” I proceeded to smash every cookie in that box with my fist until the entire box was tiny crumbs. My husband was staring at me and when I finally stopped, we burst into hysterical laughter. I’m not sure if what I saw in his eyes was relief or fear! But it quickly led to a very honest talk about this situation and how we would handle these things in the future. I was ready to send her a note saying,
Hey, my kids and I loved the cookies! Oh and by the way, YOU AIN’T WOMAN ENOUGH TO TAKE MY MAN!
But I calmed down - and learned an invaluable lesson that day. I must be intentional in guarding and investing in my marriage. I am my husband’s safeguard against the schemes of the enemy, he is mine, and we will do everything within our power and God’s to protect our relationship and our testimony. I did learn one other thing – maybe I need to bake chocolate cookies a little more often?...read more
Susie lives in Dallas, TX with her husband OS Hawkins. She is the author of From One Ministry Wife to Another: Honest Conversations on Connections in Ministry and writes for Flouish.me. She has 2 daughters and 6 grandchildren, keeping her life full of craziness and joy.
For many small-group leaders, one of the more intimidating things we do is facilitating a group discussion. Very few of us feel like we'll have all the right answers, or that we can handle whatever curve balls will be thrown our way (and there will be some!). To make matters worse, it's even challenging to gauge whether we're doing a good job or not.
But here's the good news: that's not what facilitating a group discussion is really about. We don't have to have all of the right answers. We don't have to lead the perfect discussion every time. We don't even have to get through all of the material in each meeting!
When we're facilitating in our small group, our main goal is to create discussion. We want to challenge people to think about the topic at hand, and to create a safe environment for people to share their thoughts—to help everyone feel valued about the input they've offered.
That's all we've got to do. Thankfully, there are some established practices and principles that can help us accomplish those goals.
Asking Good QuestionsOne of the most important skills in small-group facilitation is not having all of the right answers, but asking the right questions. Here are a few secrets to good question-asking:
Most of us in ministry will move several times during our careers and lifetimes. We will move from church to church, city to city, state to state and even country to country. It’s part of the territory and comes with the calling.
My husband and I are fortunate, having been a part of only three churches in our twenty years of marriage. We have lived in three cities, two states and four houses.
And with each move, I carried with me a set of expectations about what each new area of service would look like. I had expectations about my husband’s salary and benefits, about the culture of the church and surrounding area, about the kind of welcome we (I) should receive, about the ministries I would be involved in, about the kind of job I would get and about how God would use us when we arrived. I thought I knew how God would work.
And every time, with every move, I set myself up for disappointment.
Here are some of the lessons that I learned as we moved from one position of ministry to another.
Grieve for what you left behind.
By the grace of God, we have never been forced to leave a ministry position under negative circumstances. Although we have always been excited about the prospects of our new positions of service, I grieved what I lost. I missed the people in our churches, people who had become more than just church members, but who were (and are) dear friends and surrogate family.
I missed the cities where we lived, the restaurants and stores we frequented. I missed my houses. I missed the familiar and the known.
I learned that I need the time to grieve those losses. It’s okay to miss what we leave behind, as long as we don’t stay there. Give yourself grace and time to adjust to a new place of service. At the same time, don’t allow yourself to become so consumed with what you left that you miss what God is giving you where you are.
Take time to discover how God is working.
I had expectations for how God would use me in each new church. Those expectations had a lot to do with how I was serving in the churches we left. I reasoned that God had used me so well in this way over here, surely He would do the same thing over there.
I never stopped to consider that someone else might already be serving in that role in our new church.
A wiser move on my part would have been to take several months to a year and volunteer as needs arose that I could fill, but not plan on assuming any kind of leadership until God clearly showed me how He wanted to use me. This attitude takes humility, acknowledging that I am not the only person who can do certain things and knowing that God can and will use my gifts and talents as He sees fit.
It also allows for our church members to use their gifts freely, without any sense of competition from us.
Look outside the box.
At our current church, many of my friendships and areas of service look nothing like I envisioned when God brought us here more than nine years ago. I had “plans” – plans for the way people would respond to me and my gifts, plans for the types of relationships we would have, plans for the ways God would use me. And God has reminded me again and again that the plans are His, not mine. I have been humbled several times because I tried to act where God was not moving.
God has stretched me and grown me. I have many good friends who are not in my age bracket – they are both younger and older. I have served in areas that I do not feel are my greatest strengths, but are where God is asking me to serve. Other areas where I think I am stronger, He has removed from me, at least for now.
If you are struggling to find your place in a new area of service, may I suggest that this is my greatest lesson? Step back and allow God to show you where He would have you. If it looks entirely different than what you thought it would, perhaps He wants to grow you in a new area. He is refining you and sanctifying you, and, while the process can be painful, He is doing it for our good and His glory.
What lessons has God taught you during ministry moves?
Where do you go to learn about being a minister's wife?
It is our desire here at Refresh to see that each woman has a positive experience in partnership with their husband in ministry.
Bloom wants to provide guidance, support, connection, and encouragement to wives new to ministry through a connection with a seasoned and trained minister's wife using a Connect group created specifically for you. We'll use books to guide us in our conversations about the challenges, issues, benefits, and rewards of being a minister's wife.
We believe when women are strengthen, our families and churches are strengthened, and the ministry of the gospel is strengthened.
Interested in joining a Bloom Group?
Let us hear from you. Next group starting April 2018.