For as long as I can remember, I have always been told that I can do it all. I grew up in the 90’s when Spice Girls ruled the airwaves and girl power was all the rage. As an only child of a single mother (my parents divorced when I was 4) my mother pushed (and often shoved) me to develop the skills and talents it took to be successful. Want to be an ambassador to France? Learn French. Want to be a professional ballerina? Work hard to get into a professional academy. You get the drift.
When my dad died ,and then my mom died 4 months later, I was 16- alone, destitute, and frankly emotionally numb. So I relied on the one skill (read: coping mechanism) that had been drilled into me since I was little- work hard and you will be successful. Strive. Push. Check the box to get to the next step.
I had always been taught that you work hard for the right to earn what you deserve, and that success comes to those who diligently put in the effort, studies, and made the right friends. So the next eight years of my life I studied, balanced multiple jobs, climbed the ladder, and made all the right connections.
Hard work yielded this:
- Graduated high school with dual credit classes, AP honors, and an honors cord in ancient Latin
- Balanced two jobs in college and graduated early from a private university- that I personally funded with scholarships and a ton of student loans
- Had an incredible job lined up as soon as I graduated. (Did I mention I also spent a summer in Nashville working for the internationally recognized LifeWay Christian Ministries team?)
- Traveled across the US speaking, fundraising, working with and on media programs, and meeting some incredible celebrities and passionate people
- Competed in the Miss Texas Scholarship Pageant, earning over $30,000 in scholarships and ultimately placed 2nd runner up and had the opportunity to place in the top 15 at the National Sweetheart pageant
- Moved to a Director position in one of the leading nonprofits not only in Dallas, but in the nation. Connect continually with top business leaders, create strategy, fundraise, and develop a heart for serving the community in those I steward
- Travel across the US speaking on multiple topics and getting to share my personal story
I read over those points and I see two things: first, that I’ve done some pretty great things with the circumstances I was dealt. At 25 I’m doing pretty darn good. Second: that is a LOT of “I’s” “me’s” and “look at this” statements. Those bullet points can easily be read as bragging, self-serving, and frankly darn arrogant. If I didn’t know me, I’d probably turn to a friend and do that gagging motion to display how self-serving that reads. Actually, I do know me, and I still hate how it sounds.
I bought into the lie of “wonder woman.”
Since my parents died and my family kicked me to the curb, I have relied on and trusted only myself. My own provision. My ability to “make things happen.” My friends will even tell you that I continually say that too. Need to find wedding dress off the rack in 2 weeks? I’m your girl to call. (Really.) Need to get your social media posts shared? Done. I’m confident in my abilities, because I know that I will work hard enough to make it happen. See what’s still in those sentences?? I.
In the days and weeks following my dad’s hospitalization and subsequent death, I couldn’t have told you where I would sleep the next night, or how I would make it through to the next day. I didn’t even have a drivers license to get around. When my mom died and I realized that orphans weren’t an abstract theory anymore, but the reality of my life, I felt utterly and completely alone in the world. For a brief time in my life, I lost control of my own life and amazingly trusted that I would be sheltered, fed, and protected. My faith and my community surrounded me, and I knew with complete and utter abandonment that God would provide for me, and I simply followed where He led me. Day by day, moment by moment, and home to home. I was like a lost lamb following a shepherd with complete trust.
That trust brought me into a home that not only provided shelter and food, but a beautiful illustration of what it meant to have, and be, family. I was loved, directed, and cheered on (at graduation no less- two of them actually) continually. And somewhere along my path, I started clutching tiny bits of control I had left behind in the chaos and bringing them back into my life. A little award here. A kudos there. And suddenly you end up with that list you read above. Today I often share my story with audiences and individuals alike, and get comments on how I “really overcame so much” or posts on social media saying “You really are Wonder Woman!”
And it is a devastating lie.
As a generalization, we like to put things in neat boxes with a pretty ribbon top. We like to feel accomplished, and we like to succeed. We love stories of triumph, of someone pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and making their way in the world across boulders and mountains to reach some glorious destination. Don’t get me wrong- those are all wonderful things. It’s the reason I have mountains of books in my home. We all want to believe we have a chance at success, at happiness. It’s hope.
The problem is, it is all to easy to fall into the “wonder woman” lie of believing that success comes from our own abilities. We give and give and give, and push ourselves to the brink of so much stress and pressure that we physically can make ourselves sick. Anxiety creeps in, bitterness takes root when we are passed over for something we worked hard enough to earn, and the idea that we must force success, action, and even status in our lives by the sheer force of our will power slowly cripples us and traps us in a box of false security- even if we have all the things we think we want.
Taking a deeper look, so many of my “successes” are the result of lessons learned from others, from the gifts and generosity of strangers and friends, and ultimately the provision of God. Did I work hard? Most definitely. But I would not have known the path to tread or skills to use had someone not spoken wisdom and opportunity in my life. I would not have the mentality, capability, or inherent motivation had God not continually placed people in my life to teach, guide, and correct me. I could talk for hours on the subject of those God has put in my life to equip me for success (but I’ll save that for another post.)
About two months ago, I began diligently praying to God for two things. The first was to hear from Him deeply again- to bring our relationship back to where I was truly relying on Him daily. Second, to bring into my life that which He really wanted for me. Not what I deemed best or most worthy, but the things, people, and opportunities that would take me on the path to that which He wanted for my life.
As I re-read the prayers I began laying at the feet of Jesus just a little over two months ago, I am struck by the answer He has continually given not only me, but generations who have battled this lie of self-provision and exhausting strife:
The Lord Is My Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
Reading that psalm in the light of this struggle we face of trying to “do it all” by ourselves seems even more exhausting when someone (God) says instead “I will do it all for you. Work WITH me, not against me.” When I let go of all the check lists and the cultural standards, and this warped idea of the person that can do it all by herself, I am free to recognize that God has promised to provide for me all along. There will be fear of failure (hello valley of the shadow of death), there will be thirst (but restorative waters will be found), but there is also abounding, beautiful provision. The table. The still pastures. Peace. Provision (read: NOT necessarily prosperity). It is PROMISED.
The last three or so weeks, my cup has literally overflowed ceaselessly. I have chosen (and continually have make this choice daily) to let go of the lie of trying to be wonder woman. Suddenly there are life altering opportunities that have landed in my lap. Things are being provided to me that I might have waited years for, or never even received at all. My future is on the brink of epically big things which I will be sharing with you very soon.
Will I continue to reach for the stars as I move forward? Absolutely. Will I continue to work hard and use the talents and skills I have ? Without a doubt. Do I still believe that the sky is the limit for not only myself, but others who dream big? I’ll always be a #girlpower advocate to the core. The difference is knowing that I can let go of that exhausting, unattainable, and frankly draining lie that I can find success only by sheer force of willpower and bootshine. I am choosing to dismiss the need to be wonder woman- I simply don’t have a will of iron and the strength of an amazon. I do however, have a God who has not only promised, but made good on His word to provide exactly what I need. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this if He hadn’t provided all that I needed when my world literally came crashing down. I am free.
Here’s to a few less “I’s, Me’s” and “I have to make it happen” statements, and more “it was God’s provision.” Here is to giving credit where credit is due.