Did you miss me? I’ve been living in the land of Overwhelm the last few months and need to get back on track, whatever that is. How I long to be able to snuggle into the sweet spot of Just Enough—of time and resources, rest, play, and work.
My husband and I’ve been out straight busy for at least the past four months. Meaning, more than the usual number of activities. First, during July, we hosted a missionary short-termer, which we love doing, as you will sense when you read Pursuit of the Pudú (due to launch the first part of 2024).
Then, during August and September, I worked with my publisher on the details of Pursuit of the Pudú while at the same time putting together a year-long Bible study for my ladies’ group here in Coquimbo, Chile. Over much of the year, but at full throttle in October, I prepared a series of four messages for a women’s retreat in Uruguay the first week of November.
A few days ago, the speaking engagement was unfortunately canceled due to flooding at the venue where it was to be held. Maybe we can reschedule for next year?
In the meantime, I sigh…and take a deep breath.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Do I even need to ask? Of course, you have your moments. An elderly missionary friend of ours had three baskets for correspondence labeled Urgent, More Urgent, and Too Late. We used to laugh, but as the years roll on, I can identify more and more.
I just returned from a conference on counseling. This weekend, I can choose among a baby’s birthday party, a church anniversary service, or a concert in our own congregation. Next week, we head out again—I’ll spend some time with Daughter #2 while my husband attends a pastors’ conference.
Though I haven’t blogged for a couple of months, and I’m supposed to be tweaking Legacy of the Linnenbrink Light (next up in the series Desert Island Diaries), I’m tempted to jump-start my writing again by participating in NaNoWriMo through November. (Maybe push-start is more accurate!)
Now that I’ve been given the “extra” time, putting out 50,000 words during National Novel Writing Month looks…well, possible.
Okay, so a dozen reasons (or excuses) for NOT doing this pop into my mind. I’ll be traveling part of the time. I’ve got two marriage encounters to organize. Letters and reports to compose. Christmas preparations to start. Etc., etc.
But Max Lucado’s advice also springs up (Cure for the Common Life): I should live in my Sweet Spot—the convergence of God’s glory, my strengths, and my everyday life.
The Why of Life
According to the Jewish prophet Daniel (10:12-13, 18-19), wicked spirits abound in this world who oppose the free flow of God’s truth. They don’t want me to write for the glory of God, and they definitely don’t want anyone else to read or hear the messages.
So I’m sure Satan loves to keep us overwhelmed, discouraged, and distracted. Instead of strong, gracious, calm and courageous.
It shouldn’t surprise us that the enemies of God oppose anything connected with Him. In this fallen world, many out-and-out spiritual attacks hit us camouflaged as “merely” physical or psychological resistance. Especially when we serve eternity.
Negative thoughts? Fear, frustration? Lack of motivation, loss of heart? Remember the true source of every destructive emotion, and erase that line between the visible and invisible worlds.
See God and move in His direction, at His direction.
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” –Frederick Buechner
Add God’s deep pleasure to that equation, and at the intersection you have another image of the Sweet Spot.
The What in Life
The world’s needs smack you, blind you, glaringly obvious. The specifics of our joyful service tend to shy away into obscure corners.
Whatever strengths I may possess, they usually don’t feel like enough. Do I have the talent—or even the time left—to make any difference at all? Just a dent? It seems like I’m whispering into a hurricane. And more often than not, I finish my projects only to wonder if they’ll flounder and flop.
“I am even free to fail, because it’s possible to glorify God through my weaknesses.” –Candace Cameron Bure, Kind is the New Classy
But the Lord’s brother James tells us to “count it all joy” (Jas. 1:2). You and I will experience moments, even periods, of great joy in our work. Yet the time comes for all of us when we doubt whether it’s worthwhile. The effort costs more than we ever imagined.
However, even the Sweet Spot holds both good and “bad”—and to our advantage. Ever heard of salted caramel or bittersweet chocolate? Sweet-and-sour sauce?
I “aspire to live quietly” (I Thess. 4:11, ESV), like Nicolás in Pursuit of the Pudú. As he debates career options, he expresses his preference of “cruising around these islands for the rest of my life, fishing a bit and swimming with dolphins, and coming home to help in the church on weekends.”
But for him, that leisurely life detours from God’s plans, because as Linda Peterson tells him, “God doesn’t waste His gifts.” God’s unique and “unquiet” plans do end up becoming Nicolás’s joy and perfect satisfaction.
“What (God) wants on this journey to your dreams is intimacy with you. Success is simply obedience.” –Holly Gerth, You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream
And so it frequently is for us. While I’m tempted to bury my talents, as the parable says, my life stays busy and active, not passive. The work we’re given seldom matches our original (and sometimes small) dreams. Instead, it can fill our cup to overflowing.
The How and Where to Do Life
The rubber hits the road in the real world here. I am a writer, a teacher, a missionary; not everyone is. I live in Chile; not everybody does, by far.
But for a long time, I’ve made it my prayer to combine and integrate my writing life and my daily ministries well. I’m pretty sure I haven’t always succeeded. While it’s an honorable ambition to have the best of both worlds, the truth is I really cannot dabble in everything.
And more importantly, I cannot exist in two worlds. Because, as Allen Arnold says, “There aren’t two worlds. There is only God’s reality” (Daily Thoughts/The Eden Option).
Our life’s goal shouldn’t be to fulfill our dreams, but to love God and to love people. Only in that way can you or I ever face the broken dreams and hopeless hearts of this chaotic world.
“Spending an abundance of your time on a few essential things isn’t inefficient—especially when the investment produces an eternal impact… This is your invitation to let go and live…for the things that matter most.” –Allen Arnold, Daily Thoughts
My prayer isn’t to keep as many plates spinning as possible. Accomplishing everything isn’t a realistic option. I can’t—I never could. But I can choose the people and projects that matter most.
Ah, and it is a choice.
The decision to cling to the opportunities in the Sweet Spot—at the junction of God’s glory, my joy, and the world’s need—means rejecting the other calls and offers.
So my purpose—in speaking or writing, or whatever I do, to God’s glory—is to help change the lives of listeners and readers.
“People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.” –Simon Sinek
Here I’m not thinking so much about buying and begging attention as about inspiring redemptive transformation. God help me not to pursue sales and likes, but rather positive impact and influence.
I wish you God’s best. And I wish you life in your own sweet spot, wherever, whatever that is.
This month, I’m thinking of moving out to the Sweet Spot instead of staying stuck, working overtime at the Overwhelm Office. And as I go through life, I’ll “take notes,” as someone advised—using my “pen for a sword,” as another writer has put it.
“Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands…” –Psalm 149:6, ESV