To the Overburdened Woman: A Lesson in God’s Expectations

To the Overburdened Woman Wondering What God Expects of You

I am a church member, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a teacher. I’m sure you fit many of those roles as well, and the expectations we put on ourselves and expect from others to fulfill any of those positions is mind-boggling. I’m sure you don’t want to read paragraphs of what I do related to each of those, but you can read an article about being spread thin that I wrote for Beulah Girl earlier if you want the juicy details.

For now, let’s just focus on the last few weeks of my life as a teacher. Early this year, I added another credential to my resume. Mind you, it doesn’t pay anything, I already have a million badges on my signature line of my email, and I am not changing jobs any time soon. I signed up for this certification because I wanted to. As my husband says, I crave chaos.

The certification requires monthly webinars that are supplemented by an overwhelming group chat and social media involvement. The culminating activity of this certification is the ability to earn a trip. I earned that trip to Denver (yay!), but I volunteered (how shocking!) to develop a breakout session in addition to preparing for the trip itself and bringing materials to present a required science-fair-type board. That’s a lot, so my summer has consisted of one week of preparation for that trip and one week of being on the trip itself. The trip was a wonderful experience, but I am exhausted!

Don’t we do that to ourselves as women? We are asked to bring a dish to a party, so we have to bring the best dish. We need an outfit to attend a women’s event, and we have to nail every accessory just to impress other women. It’s VBS time, and even though we don’t have time to think, we volunteer for the biggest, best-decorated room. It’s time for the chaos to stop! God doesn’t expect all the things we put on ourselves. Despite all our ever-running, in Micah 6:8, God tells the prophet that He only has three expectations for him. Maybe we women would do well to take note of these three commandments and center our lives on them instead.

God’s Three Expectations Women Can Learn From Micah

Do justly. As compassionate women, it is easy for us to cry. Or at least it is for me. I can cry over a commercial, a movie, a dream, or a memory. But I don’t often act on that compassionate cry. The key word in this segment of God’s admonition to Micah is the word do. My favorite book in the Bible, James, says that we must be “doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving [ourselves].”

It’s only justice when we do it, not just think about it or cry over it. What is God calling your woman’s heart to do? Fight against human trafficking? Fight for the unborn? Fight for your marriage and honor the vows that you know are the right way? Whatever it is, God’s call for justice is an opportunity to align ourselves with the beat of His heart. Let’s do it, whatever it is.

Love mercy. I am currently reading almost a 20-year-old book by Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?, where the author gives outrageous examples of God’s grace and juxtaposes them with calls for humanity to show that same grace in the face of horrible evil. I’ve made the point that God doesn’t expect very much of us, but what He does expect can be really hard.

Grace has often been defined as God giving us something we didn’t deserve. Mercy works in tandem with such extravagant love — it is when the consequences we do deserve are withheld from us. I can only skim the surface of how many times I’ve broken God’s heart or spit in His face by my actions and yet how many times He has withheld his wrath. Yes, I’ve had to deal with the fallout of my sin, but not to the degree I could have.

Our response to God’s many acts of mercy are at the crux of what God expects of women. We are to be the embodiment of mercy. When our children disrespect us, we could yell and reject them, especially if the disrespect becomes a pattern. Mercy says to love them anyway. When friends fail on their end of a bargain, we might feel the need to find new friends. Mercy says to live the golden rule and love the way we wish they could. Will we ever need to dole out punishment? Certainly we will, but greater mercy should be our life’s aim, since it is what will draw people to the cross.

Walk humbly with your God. Oh my, so many times in my life I’ve shown false humility on the outside — refusing to pose for pictures, singing quietly or not at all when asked, or playing down my academic achievements. All the while, on the inside, I was fighting thoughts of my own pride, pride in my appearance, my talents, or my intelligence. God knows the difference. I wrote a whole post for Beulah Girl about humility that I encourage you to read, but let me sum it up with this. God wants all the glory, and He won’t share it with us.

If we are doing tasks “for God” but secretly doing them so that we can get approval from our husbands, our churches, or the PTA board, they don’t count. If God expects only the three items He outlines through Micah, He expects us to do them well. Let us fall prostrate at the feet of our King and ask Him to take those aspects of our personality or behavior that rise up as competitive idols and help us restore them to their rightful places, at the foot of His cross and recognized as gifts from Him.

Listen, ladies, if you are struggling with the busyness of life and overwhelmed by your own expectations, it’s time to pick up God’s goals for you instead. And you know what? I’ve heard He has a pretty easy burden, one that’s worth the trade for our impossible one. If we will just fall in love with Jesus, we will naturally embrace justice, adore mercy, and humble ourselves. Because we always become like the ones with whom we spend our time.

Would you like prayer about God’s expectations of you? Do you feel overwhelmed? Feel free to leave a comment below, and this team will hold you up to the Lord.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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Letter to a Newlywed: 4 Things a New Bride Needs to Know About Marriage

Beulah Girl Feb 2016 (1)

I barely weighed 115 pounds when I got married.

I know some of you reading this may have decided you don’t like me now, but I honestly tried to gain weight and couldn’t. (I assure you this is not a problem for me any longer.)

When I went shopping for wedding dresses, most of the dresses were in large stock sizes, so the sales clerk had to clip back the dresses with massive clips just to give me an idea of what each dress would look like. And then, in a stroke of genius, the sales lady offered to show me some dresses on the clearance rack — in smaller sizes. Back then, even a size 6 was a bit roomy for me, and I finally slid into a size 4 dress that actually fit me. No alterations needed.

I am convinced I bought that particular gown more because it actually fit than because it was my dream dress. I had envisioned myself in a mermaid style number and instead walked away with a sequined tulle ballet-skirted gown. However, it was still beautiful, and we bought it on the spot. I didn’t get to try it on again until right before I was to fly down for our destination wedding.

And then I noticed that my dress no longer fit like a glove. Either I had lost a few pounds sometime between when I had tried on the dress in the store or the underskirts they had given me with the dress did not fill it out as much as the sample slip I had used. Thus, I had a little extra room under the fabric in the back where the dress met my tailbone.

The sales clerk assured me that that the space was so slight, it could be remedied with a fuller petticoat. The wedding was looming up in just a few days, so I took the dress as-is with the different petticoat.

But, if the truth be told — even with the recommended skirts underneath, I still had too much room in the waist of the dress. There wasn’t anything I could do with the wedding upon me. I simply wore the dress, and probably no one other than me even noticed that it did not contour to every curve as it was designed to. But it still bothered me a little at the time.

In looking back at my wedding dress dilemma, I have found that marriage is kind of like that wedding dress I wore all those years ago. Some days it fits better than others. It has taken some adjusting, some altering to fit into a life with someone who lived independently of me for the majority of his life.

Now, 15 years later, here’s what I would say to any starry-eyed bride walking down the aisle:

1. Educate yourself on gender differences.

You may be reading this thinking, huh? What is there to know? I got this! Let me assure you, from one woman to another, men have very different needs, communication modes and behaviors. Period. Even knowing this going into marriage, I still didn’t really get how these differences would crop up immediately. Some of our earliest fights occurred because I had no idea how to handle this man, this utter alien from outer space.

I had grown up with three sisters and a fairly distant father. I had no reference point for how to interpret my husband’s actions. I found it helpful to read several books in my early marriage. A few that I really enjoyed were Staying Close: Stopping the Natural Drift Toward Isolation in Marriage, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey; Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus, by John Gray; and The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, by Gary Smalley. We also benefited from joining a life group at church focused on couples and attending several couples’ events at church.

I am still learning what makes my husband tick, but understanding that males generally have different things that motivate them and make them operate (including entirely different wiring in their brains) has helped me to understand Keith better and not expect him to have the same reactions to life events and conversations as me.

2. Get involved in a church community.

As tempting as it is to run off together and never leave each other’s sight, you will have to come up for air eventually, and you need Christian community to support your marriage and help bring accountability and community into your life.

I can think of several turning points in my early marriage — and two important ones I can think of are when we went to church for the first time together when we were first married, and when we found a home church once we got established in my husband’s home state. A Washington-born girl, I was extremely homesick when my then military husband was honorably discharged, and we made the decision to move permanently to Georgia. That homesickness began to fade once we got plugged into a good church.

We both benefited from being part of a faith community where we could learn more about God and connect with other individuals in similar life stages (and in even more advanced life stages). We could know that we weren’t alone in some of the struggles we were having, and we could get advice and knowledge from couples further along in their life journey.

3. Adjust unrealistic expectations.

Not only is it necessary to learn about gender-related relational differences, it is necessary to make sure your overall expectations are not creating an unrealistic standard for your spouse. The day before my wedding, my then future father-in-law gave me some sage advice regarding expectations: he told me to lower them! I thought at the time that the advice sounded a little odd. Why would I do that? And now that I have been married for some time, I have a better sense of what he meant.

Lowering expectations doesn’t mean that you don’t make your needs known. It also doesn’t mean you pretend like you don’t have any needs or wants or allow someone to de-value or disrespect you. However, what it does mean is that you don’t put the unrealistic expectation on the other person to know what to always do and say in the exact way you think they should — to make you happy.

Beulah Girl Feb 2016 (3)

I have long since discovered that my husband is good at a lot of things. We have many meaningful talks, and I tell him just about everything. But he often doesn’t have the reactions I think he should or always meet every emotional need I have. And I can’t expect him to.

I remember after having my first baby, I was overwhelmed with the recovery, hormones, decisions, fear. I was having a hard time learning how to breast-feed, and I felt like a total failure. Everyone in my family breast-fed — my mom, my sister, but I absolutely hated it. I thought it was awful. I liked feeding my baby from a bottle better, but I was afraid to stop breast-feeding because I feared I wouldn’t be a good mom if I didn’t adhere to more natural practices.

Enter in unrealistic expectations: I wanted my husband to understand my emotions, what I was going through. When I shared with him how I felt, he just shrugged and said, “Just use formula if you want.” End of discussion.

I wanted him to understand what a big deal this decision was for me. In retrospect, I realize my husband was just reacting out of his reference point. I really needed the soothing experience of talking with other women who had gone through similar experiences. I get it. If my husband were unloading on me about a problem unique to men, I might have a hard time relating to it.

The bottom line: Husbands can’t meet all our needs. We have a God for that. We can also benefit from other friendships that can help us in whatever life stage we are in.

 4. Apply Christian principles in the home.

In my first few years of marriage, I was in a bit of a backslidden state as a Christian. I was distrustful of certain Christian principles I had seen abused or misused in my own family or other families I observed. Although I knew about the biblical verses that instructed wives to submit to their husbands, I really didn’t feel that those passages applied to me.

Wounded in two dating relationships prior to meeting my husband, I had concluded that I needed to stop being so needy and clingy. In an effort to protect my heart, I became very independent. I would make what decisions I wanted to, come and go as I pleased, and not act like I needed anything from him. As you can imagine, there was some friction caused by this self-sufficient attitude of mine.

One Sunday, I went to church mad. I don’t remember if I had had an argument with Keith or what the problem was, but I had a list in my head of things Keith needed to do differently in our relationship. While I expected God to side with me — God ended up doing a work in me rather than my husband! During the course of the service, the Holy Spirit strongly convicted me and showed me a clear picture of what I was like to live with. And the picture wasn’t pretty. I felt I was to apologize to Keith for not letting him lead. It was difficult for me to humble myself and go to him and tell him that I had been wrong, but I felt a sense of peace and relief after that conversation.

I came to the revelation during that incident that God designed marriage with specific roles in mind, and for my marriage to work the best way possible, I needed to obey biblical mandates. When I allowed my husband to take the role of leadership, I honored not only him but I honored God. I had more tranquility in my home and more in my soul when I obeyed what Scripture said about my role as a wife.

Does submission mean I am a meek doormat who never gives an opinion or speaks up? No. I tell him what I think. I give him advice. I would never participate in a wrong action out of a false belief that that constitutes as submission, but from that moment I had in church where God made it clear that my attitude needed to change, I have made the effort to support him as the head of the family and let him determine what direction we will go in terms of our major decisions.

While there can be days where marriage feels just as ill-fitting as the waistline of the dress from my wedding day, the good thing about a marriage relationship is that it is flexible — it can grow as you grow.

There have been moments where I have been so angry at Keith only to have other moments where I am so happy with where we are in our relationship. God cares about your relationship and knows the things you need to help make you thrive in it.

Above all — seek Him, and you will find that the more you grow in your relationship with Him, the more you will know what things you can do to make your marriage “fit” better than it does now.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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What Does God Expect of Me?

What Does God Expect of Me

Earlier this week, a big Amazon package was sitting on my kitchen table when I got home. I knew exactly what it was. It was a brand new food processor I had just ordered a few days before. My plan was to start making all my own baby food, since my son was almost eight months old, and I was behind in giving him “other foods” (aka anything other than formula).

I decided that making homemade baby food would be a good idea in order to save money, and that I would be an accomplished, above-average mom. As I went to a kitchen drawer for scissors to open the package, I felt like I was supposed to be excited about it, but I wasn’t. I knew I wouldn’t be able to successfully do this. I knew I didn’t have all the time, energy, and drive in me in order to make this homemade baby food thing happen. I was defeated before I had even begun. I felt like a failure.

As I sat down for my quiet time this morning, my heart was heavy. My many perceived failures were piling up on me. I had a picture in my mind of the kind of woman, wife, and mom I was supposed to be.

I was supposed to have a perfectly clean house, a schedule of all of our meals for the next month, and all of our doctors’ appointments lined up for the year. I was supposed to be teacher-of-the-year at my school, go to the gym three times a week, and be up-to-date on all the latest fashions. I was supposed to volunteer in the community, serve in many facets at my church, and even be a leader of a handful of ministries. I was supposed to be an incredibly responsible, respectable, and put-together adult. I was supposed to have an organized purse and be able to create made-from-scratch baby foods.

The list was long and my strength was weak. Why couldn’t I be and do all of those things? Why didn’t God put the ability to accomplish these tasks more readily inside of me? I mean, a woman able to do it all is what would please Him and mean success, right?

With all of my weaknesses glaring, I cried out to God and realized something. I have been pressuring myself to be someone that I may NEVER be. And that is OK. Even better than that, it’s very possible that I have been wasting time and energy trying to be someone that I was NEVER SUPPOSED to be.

You see, as I got caught up in such a long list of to do’s, it was almost as if I was focused on being more like Martha instead of more like Mary. Let’s take a look at the passage to remind ourselves of these two sisters.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’ ” (Luke 10:38-42 –ESV)

Martha was focused on many things. She was distracted by them and trying to do, do, do for Jesus. Maybe, in a way, she was trying to be good enough for him. This is the trap that I have found myself in. I long to be a daughter that God is pleased with, and while that is a great thing, I had created all these things in my mind that He must expect from me. Things I thought I must do in order to be worthy of his presence. Like Martha, I was focusing on my to-do list rather than simply enjoying the company of the One in my heart.

Like Martha

There are a couple problems with this works-based mentality. The first is that my works will never make me good enough for him. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

The second problem with me trying to do more for Jesus is that it takes me away from the real truth and beauty of Christianity — to be in a close and personal relationship with God because of what Christ did for me, not what I do for Him. To simply be in awe of who He is and to rest in and enjoy His presence, hear His teaching, and get to know Him more. And the funny thing is, time spent with Him is where I get the strength to do the things that He has called me to.

The world teaches us to accomplish as much as we possibly can and to earn our worth and acceptance. To be more like Martha. To work hard, and then we might be “good enough.” But that’s not what Jesus tells us to do. Jesus says for us to pause from our busyness and learn from Him. To believe that “in repentance and rest is our salvation” (Isaiah 30:15).

Yes, God has planned things for me to do, and I certainly want to do them. I want to glorify Him with my life, and I don’t want to miss what He has for me. But my hope is that I don’t get caught up in works. That I would not “be anxious and troubled about many things.” That I would be more like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus.

Because resting in His presence will then allow me to clearly see the difference between the works He has called me to and the ones He hasn’t.

What about you? Have you become so caught up in trying to please others or meet your own impossible expectations that you haven’t been able to listen to Jesus lately? What is one way you can make time for Him today?

Rachel Howard

Rachel Howard

With a degree in music education, Rachel Howard is a middle grades chorus instructor who has a passion for teaching students about her love for music. In addition to inspiring adolescents in the public school system, Rachel is currently taking piano lessons and also enjoys photography, scrapbooking and Francine Rivers novels. A small-group leader at her church, Rachel also leads worship on occasion. In addition to these roles, Rachel is a wife and mom to two kids, Isaac and Evelyn. Rachel currently resides in Georgia with her husband and kids.

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