be gentle.

I’ve been talking to myself the past few days. This is nothing new (by any stretch), but the words I’m saying are. “Be gentle. Be gentle. Be gentle.”

I’m telling myself to be gentle to herself. Except I’m having a little trouble listening (let alone agreeing/obeying).

I have a long history of putting pressure on myself, of expecting quite a bit of myself, of giving myself a hard time if I don’t measure up. The crazy thing is my parents never pressured me. I don’t remember ever feeling like they were pushing me or raising some bar every time I got close to it. They were easy to please and unconditionally loving.

It was all me.

Sooo, here we are in Cambodia. We waited a long time to get here. We worked hard to get here. People are sacrificing to support us here.

(By the way, today marks our TWO MONTH CAMBODIA-VERSARY! Yay us!)

And I’m struggling.

Don’t get me wrong. I love it here. Really and truly. It’s not that. It’s that I have this expectation of myself. What I’m supposed to be doing and being and accomplishing and learning and getting done and managing.

And when I can’t make it all work, I get frustrated with myself. And I try to figure out ways to pull myself up by my flip flop straps, suck it up, and be the “missionary” I’m “supposed” to be.

Well. So much for that.

For whatever reason, I feel guilty when I rest, guilty when I spend money, guilty when I don’t get things done, blah, blah, blah. And I’m pretty sure that God doesn’t want me living this life of condemnation and high expectations.

Yes, there’s kingdom work to be done. And, no, my comfort isn’t the most important thing in life. And, yes, I want to sacrifice so that others might know Jesus.

But grace.

I’m pretty sure I’ve been missing the point a little bit. That maybe I’m trying to do too much in my own power. That I’m not letting Jesus take my heavy burdens in exchange for his light ones. That I’m not resting guilt-free a little each day (and one full day a week).

So, I’m asking God to help me show grace to myself. To give myself time. To not expect too much too fast. To be gentle with myself.

To be gentle with myself when:

  • we eat out five meals in a row because I feel too fried to cook.
  • I hire help.
  • I take a nap after school three afternoons in a row.
  • I eat junk food because it’s easier than preparing something fresh & whole.
  • I don’t get the laundry done.
  • I read a book instead of practicing Khmer.
  • my kids want to invite someone over and I just want to be by myself.
  • I haven’t begun to return all the dinner/dessert invitations we’ve gotten in the last 2 months.
  • I’m a million years behind on thank-you notes.
  • I say we’re going to send out a newsletter today, and it’s 8:30pm, and I’m ready for bed.
  • we haven’t updated our family site in ages.
  • we order pizza delivered again when it’s neither vegan nor cheap.
  • I can’t keep our kitchen shelves organized.
  • the girls keep begging for a bunk bed and/or hammock and/or papasan chair, and I keep saying, “Soon.”
  • I’m not getting my next e-book written fast enough.
  • I let food go bad because I don’t plan ahead and we don’t eat it fast enough.
  • I’m doing a bad job of being gentle with myself.

(I’m sure there’s more, but you get the drift.)

That’s all. Just wanted to get that off my chest.

Would love for you to hold me accountable on the whole give-my-burdens-to-Jesus and give-myself-grace thing. (As long as you do it in a kind, gentle, full-of-grace way.)

Anybody else struggle with this?

15 thoughts on “be gentle.

  1. Heather

    You mean you’re not Wonder Woman? You’re *gulp* normal? You’re saving souls for Jesus dear woman! Let that lettuce wilt and those bananas spoil. Jesus needs you in the field! It’s so funny how mean we are to ourselves. I just read a remark that if we talked to people the way we talk to ourselves, people wouldn’t want to be our friend. Love your honesty!

  2. Bethany

    The following paragraph was my Facebook status back on May 21, 2014:

    “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30
    Are you carrying any unnecessary man-made burdens? Perhaps rules or formulas that others (or even yourself) have put on you that God never commanded you to carry? May God grant you freedom as you submit to His Word alone and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you every day.”

    I will pray for you Marla that you will be in God’s Word and be walking with Him daily and not worry about your ideals or pressures others might be putting on you, but that your only concern would be what GOD is telling you to do through His Word. Follow HIS leading.

    “The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone–as though we had never been here. But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him…The LORD has made the heavens his throne, from there he rules over everything.” Psalm 103:13-17, 19

    God has got this. He knows how weak you are. Just follow closely behind him as He leads you.

    I love you sis!

  3. Chris

    The speaker at man camp told a story about a guy who joined a group of lumberjacks. The lumberjacks would take lots of breaks and the new guy didn’t know why, and he thought, “they’re really lazy,” and he pushed himself harder and harder. The veterans kept getting more work done then him though! So he pushed himself even harder. Soon one of the other guys came and told him to take a break so he could get more work done. Well when he finally went to take a break he found out that they’d been using their break time to also sharpen their axes!

    There’s a couple different analogies you could draw from that. But I think the part that encouraged me, because I’m like you, is the fact that it’s not our mission! We can do nothing without him. He not only sharpens our axehead when we’re with him but he IS the axehead.

    Less time doing and more time sharpening and grace to let go of owning it all 🙂

  4. Sharon

    Guilt sucks! Especially when it’s not justified. Praying for you. Just mentioned to my Mom about the whole hiring help thing as a Missionary yesterday. She said what everyone else did, it’s very common and almost expected. In the words of Elsa, “Let.It.Go!!!!” I know, easier said than done. I recommend telling the Devil to back off the second those kinds of thoughts start.

    And, the people who invited you over, they’ve been there for a while. And have gone through their major adjustment time. Once you get there, maybe you can start “reciprocating to those who have blessed you. Or, perhaps, just pay it forward to others, when you are at a point to do so.

    I have friends who are missionaries, and for their first assignment, they went to language school for 1 – 1.5 years. That was their only job. To learn the language. They weren’t going through all the huge transitions that you all are. Please do have grace for yourself and take Jesus’ grace, too.

  5. Sarah Farish

    I read this and think…my word, friend, I am sure you’re doing the BEST you can! You need to take breaks and order pizza and read books. It’s good! But, when it’s me…when I take what I perceive to be the shortcut, I beat myself up over and over. Why is it so hard to extend grace to ourselves when we have NO trouble extending it to others? It’s hard! But, I am praying, friend, that you are gentle with yourself, applying all His promises you share with others to yourself. We can all learn from your words – thanks for continuing to be authentic.

  6. Cloud

    I struggle with this guilt all the time too! For some reason I don’t feel worthy unless I am being useful. I love to take long baths and read, or zone out with a movie but then I beat myself up when I do that instead of laundry or dishes or cooking. All that does is leave me tired and frazzled. I have learned lately to honor my body with rest and relaxation when it wants it. It knows best. And sometimes my mind needs a break too-so a nice long dive into a book or show is the order of the day. To everything there is a season -even within one day. There is a time for rest -and by taking it when you need to-you will feel far more able to rise to any challenges that may come up. Otherwise you risk burnout. Thanks for sharing how you feel-it lets the rest of us realize we are not alone in this same struggle and in turn hopefully you will realize the same 🙂

  7. Gaylene Carpenter

    It is so much easier to give grace to others, than to ourselves. Praying for you to remember to grant it to yourself as you do to others.

  8. Cindy Terry

    You might be trying to do too much, especially since you are still adjusting to this BIG change in life. (we were in the Army and made moves-even to Germany 3x-every 2-3 years-and it is stressful!) Cut something that puts deadlines on you, at least for now. Is it safe there to take walks by yourself? Try that too-the exersise and alone time may be good. Also, connect with other missionaries who have “been there”. And, like many of your friends have said, it is the way some of us are wired and a personal struggle that the devil loves to use against us-I mean this trying to be the perfect….whatever (mom, missionary, wife, etc) I know, I deal with it too. I have a feeling you will be just fine! Keep close to the Savior you so badly want to tell these people about. And let Him “save you!”.

  9. Sarah

    It’s all about balance. You may be adding pressure to yourself because you have others who are supporting you, but in reality no one expects you to be superhuman. Let God’s grace be enough! Enjoy your nap and your pizza, just like the rest of us. By doing so others will know that you aren’t an impossible standard that they try to measure themselves against (because a lot of us do that I think) and are just another sister in Christ doing ones best.

  10. allison

    you are absolutely not alone in that! You’ve got It a little worse than most. You’ve got this feeling that tons of people are watching you, waiting for amazingness and miracles. Because we are watching, but most of us – well me, cuz I can’t speak for everyone – sees what you’ve already accomplished as quite a heap of amazingness and no small number of miracles.

    Remember how in the early years of parenting, you would hear the advice to take care of yourself because if Mom doesn’t have a full bucket of emotional energy, she can’t give to her kids what they need? Same. Exact. Thing. You need to take care of yourself so you are full and able to serve those you went to Cambodia to serve. It’s not to be a source of guilt but a source of strength. Nap today knowing that tomorrow you may be called to help someone and not sleep for two days.

    Doing what you’ve done, moving to Cambodia, takes a metric tonne of energy, especially for an introvert! In these early months, I would fully expect you will need way more self care, way more bucket filling, than you ordinarily would. So fill your bucket, my friend, so that you are refreshed and able to pour that bucket out on the lovely people of Cambodia when you are ready.

  11. Melissa

    Oh man, you have no idea how much I struggle with this even though we are world’s apart and I’m back here in the old USA. I yell at Dominic because I get frazzled and I feel as if I’m the biggest mom failure in the world. I feel like I should be always perfect at all times or I feel like I’m letting everyone down. Our washing machine just broke and I apologized to Nick just in case it was my fault. He asked me why I was apologizing because our washing machine is ancient and nothing I did was the cause of it. But I felt I’m the one who does laundry the most so surely I had something to do with that. I’m having a very overwhelming week between the washing machine dying and my sister in law visiting and my mother in law coming on Sunday and Allen having a cold with a fever and pink eye and being the Matron of Homor for my good friend’s wedding on Friday and it’s all so much and instead of responding to all of the overwhelming stuff with giving myself more grace, I respond by being harsher with myself. The struggle is real, it is so so real.

  12. Rebekah Stupakewicz

    Marla, Oh my goodness all the time! You aren’t alone friend. Through all this new stuff, you’re really only accountable to Jesus. I have to remind myself this sometimes daily, sometimes 10 times a day.
    Be Merciful, just as our father is merciful.

    Isn’t it like the devil to distract us with all these doubts? Or even send people or events to discourage.

    Be strong and courageous.

    So what I’ve done: I write out scriptures and stick them on our kitchen cabinets and on the mirrors in the bathrooms, and on the doors. I even ask Dan to read truths and speak truths to be as I fall asleep at night. I try to fill myself with truth. (Does it work all the time, no, I a crazy human that gets super insecure and I freak out) but when I am able to once more focus after my freak out. I can rest, rest in truth. Then I’m not so exhausted any more. Stressing out is exhausting.

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