I write to share in all honesty but also to help propel people & myself forward.
I’m coming off a challenging week. So I want to preface this post with the reality that trading-up is not always a simple choice when it’s played out in the complexity of life.
It’s the middle of Summer and my husband and I came down with strep throat at the same time. This.is.the.worst. Both parents down-for-the-count while 4 small children’s needs still need to be met. We were a pitiful pair. One slept while the other “sat” with the kids and made sure they were fed, and had all their basic needs met. And then we’d swap.
Just as with any sickness, you don’t pencil it in, so the schedule either gets cancelled or you just have to push through. My husband and my oldest son had a trip planned to go see a missionary family, dear friends of ours, by plane. They pushed through and went. While my 3 younger kiddos and I cancelled our plans, hoping to keep our germs to ourselves.
I started off strong. Energized to trade-up the moments I could. We made the most of our plan B. We watched girl movies and painted nails. We did fun things at home and close by. I got up early to write and went to bed late after doing the bedtime ritual, solo. Embracing my calling while facing the present circumstances.
The night before my husband’s return. The weariness of it all weighed heavily. Taking care of small children is hard, physical, work. I hadn’t slept well due to the antibiotics and my 3yr old decided to push the limits over and over again, to ensure she would have to be disciplined. To top it all off, I was coming down with another infection.
When my husband finally got home. I tried. I prayed. But it was not a success. I did not trade-up. I simply broke. I was a mess and unpleasant to be around. My guilt masked in pride, drove me to anger and sadness.
So it made me rethink this post.
The most important practical thing I can say to you is that you can’t trade-up and fully embrace your calling when you’re running on empty. You MUST refuel so you can pour out to those you are giving yourself to. Whether that be to your husband, children, job, co-workers, friends, family, or ministry.
You can be obedient all.day.long to what you feel God is calling you to do but if you don’t take time to simply sit with Him, you will find yourself running on empty. And yes you will break and you will be a mess.
We must embrace Jesus first, before we can affectively embrace anything else.
5 Tips on Trading-Up
1) KNOW THE PERSON WHO CALLED YOU
You have to spend time with someone to know who a person is. Dive in and spend time reading God’s Word, praying and journaling so you can really know Him. You can count on either, 1) having to get creative to make this happen, depending on your phase of life, or 2) getting up extra early.
God knows YOU and wants you to know Him. If you don’t feel the desire to spend time with Him, pray that God would help you to fall more in love with Him. And He will do the work. You don’t have to muster it up yourself. Just show up faithfully and sit quiet before Him & His Word.
Invite Him into the everyday. Talk to him out-loud. Pray with your eyes open. Throughout the day. With your children. Aloud. At random. While you’re driving down the road. You
may will feel a bit foolish at first but He is a person (3 persons actually), so talk to Him like He is one.
2) KNOW YOUR CALLING
What has God called you to? To be a wife, a mother, to work in the workplace, to work in ministry, to take care of your elderly parents, to adopt, to write, to lead a small group, to be a friend to someone in need. Consider the job-description and responsibilities. Or write it out so you can SEE it on paper.
More importantly consider the-HOW. How do you want to carry out your calling? How could it look at it’s best? What would it look like to have joy in it?
Lived-out example: On an annual basis, my husband and I try to set aside a day or weekend entirely devoted to working on our family’s goals based on our family’s mission-statement. With newborns left and right it hasn’t happened every year and that’s okay. I also try to do this on a regular basis with homeschooling, so I can evaluate where each child is at in their passions and abilities. To see how I can help encourage growth and build character. This infuses excitement and purpose into my calling.
Be open. Be open to change, reprioritizing and to next thing God may have for you. You can count on life never staying the same. You can see it in how fast children change and grow. Children enter in a new phase almost as quickly as the exit one. Listen to the Holy Spirt and be open to God as life changes and be willing to say Yes to Him.
3) KNOW YOURSELF
Take comparison off the table. Who are you? How are you gifted? What are you passionate about? How does that play into your calling? What could you do differently to make what you do on a daily-basis more you?
What are you weakness? Do you know your limitations? Be aware of your stress-meter. If your stress-meter is running too high you will be running on empty most of the time because there is no time for anything and yet you’re doing everything.
What can you say no to? So you can be the person you want to be. What are the things only-you can do? And what can you delegate?
Lived-out example: With each additional child (we now have 4) the housework grew greater and greater. I tried using chores charts that you buy at the store and none of them worked for my family. So, I sat down and thought about what would work for me personally and for my kids at their ages. That would be doable and practical. Yes, they are still little. But children are more capable than we realize. I bought a blank calendar and created my own chore-chart. Each child participating in meal clean-up, laundry and regular household chores. This helped dial back my stress-meter and build character in my children. Freeing me to trade-up more moments with my family.
4) KNOW YOUR OTHERS
Who are you called to serve? At home or at work, you’re serving someone. God and others. Know the others. What makes your husband’s day? What are his pet-peeves? How is your oldest child different from your youngest, in a good way? Embrace their differences. Embrace what makes he or she unique. Study them, so you can love them well and so your efforts can go farther.
Lived-out example: My husband feels loved and respected when we all greet him right when he comes home. We’ve turned it into a game. No matter what anyone is doing the moment he walks through the door you are expected to run up to him, give him a hug & kiss and say “Welcome Home!” Whoever reaches Papa first, is deemed 1st, whoever is second is deemed 2nd and so on and so forth. We all laugh. Love is given and received, no matter how our day has gone.
5) KNOW YOUR DISTRACTIONS
Distractions are usually the minor, insignificant things that take up space. They are the lesser-things that eat away at our time and compete for our attention. Intentionality is the key to engaging.
How can you take practical steps to engage? What small sacrifices could you make to be dialed-in?
-Intentionally leaving my phone inside when I go outside to play with my kids.
-Jumping on the trampoline with my kids. Even though it makes me have to go the bathroom.
-Giving up some of my most coveted “rest-time” to play basketball one-on-one with my oldest son or dolls with my oldest daughter.
-Just being with my kids instead of cleaning up behind them.
-Engaging in conversation and asking questions when my kids come to me about something he or she is excited about. Instead of nodding my head, uh huh…
-Sitting with my husband after dinner and chatting over tea about our “days”. While choosing to silence the 10 other things I have to get done before bedtime.
-Taking the Facebook App off my phone. :: I deactivated my Facebook account for a year. Which I would totally recommend for any length of time. It’s healthy to disconnect sometimes from the lesser-things ::
-Turning off all push-notifications (emails, apps, etc). So I won’t be “interrupted” throughout my day by my phone.
-Resisting the urge to check my texts right away if I’m in a face-to-face conversation.