for when you feel behind

We live our lives in measurable minutes, looking to the clock, the paycheck, the success of others. I got the contract. I’m winning! She got 2 contracts. I lose. I got the good metabolism. I’m winning! I got bad skin. I lose. I have food, a home, my health: I win! I worry, I pout, I covet: I lose.

And the cycle circles frantic on the level of our soul. We only let it go on because we don’t realize it’s happening. It’s become normal, familiar, and automatic. For some, the motivation is to win. For others, it is simply not to lose. I know it’s simplified here, but isn’t it true? Perhaps the reason we feel behind is because we’re chasing the wrong goal.

Perfection. I have a job coming up this weekend, and I feel behind when it comes to mind. But I’m beginning to realize I’m not technically behind at all. It isn’t the type of job you can really work on beforehand. But the reason I feel behind is because I’m worried about the outcome. I’m worried I won’t do the job well, and so the worry fuels the frantic wheel. I’m trying to catch up to perfect.

Expectation. Even though I have read the books and the blog posts and listened to the conversations, I still feel shame when my house isn’t clean. I know I shouldn’t. I’ve gotten better. The voices don’t shout like they used to. But the whispers are there among the paper stacks and the dirty bathroom floor. Their taunting convinces me that I am behind and I need to catch up to clean.

Beauty. I chase beautiful on the treadmill three times a week. Sometimes more. Usually less. I’m not always thinking of it that way, there are days when I go for healthy reasons, soul-feeding reasons, right reasons. But when I feel behind, when the wheel is spinning anyway, there is one more thing to throw on it. I am behind and I long to catch up to beautiful.

We are tricked into believing that the only relief from feeling behind is to catch up. But this is war, and the enemy is an illusive and foggy expectation. How can you catch up to a vapor? How can you ever run next to perfect, look her in the eye, and pass her by? We can’t but we try, and in our rush to get there we drop all the things we hold dear in order to lighten the load. Art is the first to go. Then patience, faith, and peace are tossed into a heap on the grass beside the track. But instead of a lightness, heavy comes instead. The pavement turns to quicksand, our opponent all but disappears in front of us, the race feels a joke, and we bear the brunt of it.

Show me where it says you are supposed to do it all. Point to the truth words that say you are expected to catch up. I want to see. This disease needs a cure, and only a Healer can give it. The only Healer I know invites the weary and the heavy to come for rest.

Release every detail of the job to him, from the equipment to the schedule. Tell him, cry if you must, close your eyes and believe. Open those reluctant hands. Feel the wheel begin to slow beneath you. Consider true beauty. Dare yourself to let it be true for you. What if there is no behind? What if there is only right now, this moment? Would anything be different?


  1. says

    I love these thoughts. I try and remind myself that some things will never actually ever be finished. Unless my family is standing in the living room naked, the laundry won’t ever be finished. Unless I forbid anyone to enter my home, my floors will never be completely clean…. Maintaining a household of seven is a lot like being on a hamster wheel. Where is the joy in that? Instead of finding joy in the work of maintaining, I find joy in the act of service that it is to maintain. It’s hard though, to always maintain proper perspective. But we try, yes?

  2. says

    “Show me where it says you are supposed to do it all” ummm. writing that on a card. i give up my superwoman cape only to pick it back up again time after time. here’s to chasing the true goal – glory for god.

  3. says

    Thanks Emily! These words reach into the deep places. The questions and the wrestling that haunts me – more often than I’d like to admit. Thanks for sharing…

  4. says

    Your post brought to mind some words I found so encouraging in the devotional Jesus Calling.

    “Do not fear what this day, or any day,may bring your way. Concentrate on trusting Me and doing what needs to be done. Relax in My sovereignty, remembering that I go before you, as well as with you into each day. Fear no evil, for I can bring good out of every situation you will ever encounter.” (May 7)

    Relax in My sovereignty, has been my mantra in some craziness right now.


  5. says

    “Behind” doesn’t quite stretch far enough to describe what I feel right now.

    Will turns 20 in a week, and I need to prepare. Preston graduates from high school in three weeks, and I need to prepare. Lee graduates from 8th grade in three weeks, and I need to prepare. I have a board meeting to in four weeks, and I need to prepare. And by the way? I also need to lose five pounds. Stat. And of course all that needs to happen between loads of laundry and pots of spaghetti and sinks of dishes.

    So what have I been doing? Staying at the hospital with Jack. And what’s happened to the work that needs to be happening? It hasn’t been happening.

    But you know what? If the Lord tarries (don’t you love that old phrase?), those events are all going to come, regardless of whether I’m properly or even partially prepared. And I’m finally realizing that all that is really at stake is my feelings about how I’m prepared. I’m risking disappointment and perhaps embarrassment; yes. Death and destruction? No. Again, if the Lord tarries, the sun will continue to shine even if I don’t meet my own expectations.

    When I pause to think about it (which you just helped me to do), I think perhaps some of this work need not to be done. This monster of expectation needs to die–or at least lose a couple of her hideous heads. Thank you for arming me.

    • says

      Richella – I love hearing you talk here. I cannot imagine your mama heart, your lover heart, your woman heart this week. You have been sitting in the center of just right this week with Jack, right there in the hospital.

    • Kelly says

      Emily’s post was enough to unnerve this ever-behind girl, but Richella your comment brought me to tears. Bless your heart in all of that. I so agree with killing the monster of expectation.

    • says

      Richella … this monster of expectation needs to die … undone! Thanks for saying that and thanks, too, to Emily. Came over to visit from Ann’s blog. So glad I did!

  6. says

    If I weren’t so behind, I’d have written this one myself, Emily. (Just maybe not quite so eloquently.) Every word of this is what ran through my mind and threatened to overflow from tear ducts as I ran the dam Saturday, in the heat of the day, under the pressures of life.

    The water rocked side to side in tandem with the wind, I pounded pavement of the firm dam under my feet, and my soul swayed to and fro to find realignment with my Father’s heart and desire for my 24 hours of each day – both on my run, and confirmed here in your post.

    Many blessings.

  7. says

    Oh dear friend. Aren’t you afraid that your other readers will feel neglected? What with you writing this beautiful letter directly to me and all.

    I’ve been residing in Crazy Town a little too often lately. The discontent, the striving, the grasping. They all drive me away from the things that matter most. And all too often my prayers are that God would help me get it right. Help me to DO what needs to be done. Help me to catch up.

    But the peace isn’t going to come from finally getting it right. It’s going to come from His pleasure. His grace. His comfort. Even if I don’t catch up. And that’s the rub, isn’t it?

    Give me peace amidst the imperfection, Lord. Let me be content right where I am.

    • says

      Kimba! So sweet to see you hear, friend. I was afraid I would alienate every person reading, actually, as the words are 100 percent for me. So glad to know I’m not alone.

  8. says

    Your words are sinking deep into my soul this morning. I often feel behind. Maybe almost always. Behind at work, behind at home, behind in my relationships, behind in accomplishing my goals…”Behind” is a word the enemy uses to taunt me, and I’ve known for a while that I need to let it go. I take it back easily though…and I’m there right now. So thank you, I needed this.

  9. says

    This should have been titled This One if for YOU Trisha! Thanks so much for the wonderful reminder! I am the PTA president next year along with all the other life stuff. I am feeling so overwhelmed by it all. A great reminder to turn it all over to Him. I know my Heavenly Father cares about these little children so much more then I do and that He wants it to be a good year!

    • says

      Bless you and your PTA president self. I have the utmost respect and gratitude for our PTA officers. I can only imagine how the catching up fears manifests themselves in that job! Blessings to you as you prepare for next year.

  10. Cheyenne says

    You are so completely wonderful. Thank you for once again giving voice to the feelings I’ve been experiencing lately. I wish I lived in your neighborhood and I could meet you and we could go to lunch, or get a snow cone. I feel like you are a dear friend.

  11. says

    Spoke right to me today – thank you. And, I love LOVE the rhythm of your words – I chose to read it out loud today like a spoken word artist might at a poetry slam … really powerful. Really truthful.

  12. says

    Oh, Emily! These words are exactly what I needed to hear today. My to-do list is completely out of control and it has threatened to do me in. And the thoughts they come swiftly, inadequate, less than, and the list goes on. The thoughts bury me deep before I even realize it. Thank you for your encouragement! It is exactly what this tired heart of mine needed.

  13. says

    I constantly feel behind. I haven’t been a very good homemaker lately. I work and come home and sit on the couch and live my life from there. There are many things weighing me down. I am thinking it’s okay to rest, but I’ve been resting too long. Thank you for this post. Really touched me deeply.

  14. says

    I think this might be my favorite post ever. On the internet. In the history of the world. I think I will get it tattooed on my arm. Or back maybe. But then I won’t be able to keep reading it.

  15. says

    I sure love you.

    my art goes… I feel guilty posting if I haven’t commented or visited others,
    my art goes.. I can’t read or write when I’m sitting in the dark of family things
    my art goes and I’m still and always and forever behind ( the hamster wheel , plus life , plus plus ) … and I know in my heart that I’m serving and becoming and doing, but my soul feels less and less like any one thing is the point to my getting a new day.

  16. says

    I think the feeling of ‘behind’ can stem not only from the endless to-do lists, but also from that vague knowing that we ourselves are always a work in progress. Striving for completion that won’t come this side of heaven doesn’t invite rest, but thankfully Jesus does.

    Praying for you, Emily. Simply offering yourself is enough, whether or not the dishes are clean or the miles are run:)

  17. says

    Wow Emily- what a powerful post. I think I could read this every day and find nuggets of encouragement every time. Thanks for the beautiful words and truth within.

  18. says

    You put words to my feelings, my strivings. Never enough, never good enough. To release it makes me give it back to the one who controls it all anyway. Ah. Why do I insist on picking it up in the first place. I haven’t thought it through like this before. Thank you.

  19. says

    You just saw me halfheartedly walking on that treadmill a few minutes ago didn’t you?

    I resonate with what you said about art being the first to go. Our church started a group for us creative types (aren’t I blessed?) and the first meeting was last week at a very artsy fartsy coffee shop. But I was “behind” and thought of a million reasons I shouldn’t go. Who had time for art when there was so much catching up to do?

    Thankfully, I listened to that insistent voice on the inside pointing a finger at the door saying, “Go!” I sat among a group of writers, musicians, photographers, singers, creators and our conversation was pure art. I left feeling so empowered and the world looked completely different. My inner artist took over and suddenly the art took its rightful place of priority in my life.

    I cannot even begin to express the relief that has swept my soul. I’m still not caught up. The house is a mess. I have a million things undone. But I’m experiencing a filling up and pouring out and filling up again that I’ve not had in such a long time. It’s like God Himself breathed the breath of life back into my lungs and I became the real Bonita, the one He created, not the frantic, frenzied soul that always feels behind (I even dream that I’m behind!).

    And while I’d love to say this is here to stay, I know the cycle all too well. And that makes me very thankful that my new creative group meets once a month because I’m sure I’ll be ready for a refill after four weeks.

  20. says

    You hit the nail on the head with this one! That is so me! I am going to print this off and read it to my friend. We are doing a Bible study together, just the two of us called No Other Gods by Kelly Minter and it just so happens that the Perfection/Catching-Up/Measuring-Up thing is something that I allow in my life that ends up taking the place of God at times. So this will be perfect to go along with our study this week.

    Thank you so much! I’m so thankful to have found your blog!

  21. says

    So many souls reflecting the relief of identifying that steady pull of anxiety. The clear blessing of your articulate voice. Thank-you for being a mini miracle of clarity this morning.

  22. says

    Living in NYC, I definitely see the “win, or not lose” mindset, especially in the corporate world, and comparing our life situations to other people. I think it’s unhealthy, but we shouldn’t lose that competitive drive as well. Instead of comparing or measuring ourselves to others, we should measure our current selves to our past selves, or what we’re capable of.

  23. says

    Ahh, these words …. Thanks for Praying when you write, Emily. He is comforting and counseling women (me) thru your writing(s).


  24. says

    I read this post more than 12 hours ago and I’m still thinking about it. It’s that good.

    Thank you clearing the scoreboard, Emily… there’s no winning or losing… just being. And living today.

  25. says

    The “I’m winning” part makes me think of Charlie Sheen, {sorry can’t help it} and as I’ve watched his crazy unfold I’ve thought, “What are you winning?” And then, I read this and think, “Oh yeah, I kinda sorta do that, too.”

    So much to learn.
    Thanks friend.

  26. Jeannie P says

    Wow! It’s like you knew my every damaging thought. Thank you for sharing your gift of words, & I thank you for directing me back to Him! He is enough! On a funny, but sad note–it feels as though everytime I go to the closet for my superwoman cape I can only find my witch’s hat. I quickly jump from supermom trying to do it all to a crabby witch barking at my family when life seems out of control. Again, I SO needed to hear your words. Thank you for humbly sharing. It is a blessing.

  27. says

    Found my way here from Michelle DeRusha’s place, and I am so glad I did. The moment I opened the page I knew I was somewhere I would love to be. And then I read this post and I felt a deep kinship for all that you’ve written. Indeed, where is it said that we have to do it all, and how did we get to thinking we need to?

    I’ll be back. I can’t wait to read more.

  28. says

    I am one of those people that has no problem leaving things undone, but I feel constant pressure and guilt to get things finished. This was just what I needed to hear today. Thank you.

  29. says

    “Art is the first thing to go.” Stunning words, gentle, hard-hitting words. Chaos reigns lately (or is it always?) and this post is a clarion to continue weaving the art in and around and through and up and over all of life. No, it won’t slow down or get “fixed” or resolve into peaceful clarity. I’ll take my notebook with me in the car (no, I won’t be driving) and jot down a few thoughts, and I’ll be satisfied with doing something, not beating myself up with guilt that I didn’t do enough – whatever that would be…Thank you Emily, for your encouraging, motivating words!

  30. says

    this really ministered to how i am feeling right now…pregnant with #6…just got done with 3 birthdays, Easter and Mother’s Day…today is my anniversary…it’s ALL TOO MUCH! I feel behind in my home, homeschooling, planning, email, my “list”, etc….I have been sleeping restlessly for nights from all the pressure to get caught up on it all…and making myself miserable (and probably everyone else in my family too!! :) “Art is the first thing to go”…yes, and why!? I am not giving myself permission to sew or create right now (except about 1 hr. of knitting) until the Most Important Things get done….and yet I know if I spend time creating, the emotional and spiritual renewal will give me what I need to make small steps towards other things. Anyway, all of that rambling is to say THANKS!!

  31. says

    A beautiful post and a beautiful blog thanks Emily. So very true this catch-up keep ahead game, and of course, utterly needless…thanks for the inspiration…

  32. says

    This first paragraph made me bust out laughing…I suppose its because I’ve been there before…so true. A great read, thanks friend.

  33. Caroline says

    last night i prayed, i prayed and cried (haven’t done either in combination for a long time).
    My prayer? Why my crying?
    Because I was feeling behind…so VERY behind, like 10 years behind.
    These very words I said to my husband last night: “I have been in limbo for the last 10 years.”

    I was also crying because I was feeling alone.

    Now I know, I am not alone. He has answered me back…through you, as He lead me to stumble upon your blog (for the 1st time, wow). Is it possible that He is saying to us:


  34. Jenny says

    This was such a beautiful and refreshing post. I feel like you are speaking directly to my issues…and I LOVE it! You and your sister have blessed me today through your blogs.

  35. Kelly Ann says

    I dropped something on my foot today and my to-do list was wrecked. I’m glad though, because the pain of it brought to the surface that I was freaking out inside over all this stuff to do!
    I especially related to the “dropping everything we hold dear to lighten the load” – ! And art, peace, patience out the window – yes!
    I had to Facebook it.
    Thank you.

  36. says

    I’ve not read this blog before, but oh my goodness, that totally just about killed me. In a really, really good way. Amazing writing and photos. Thanking Him for this post.

  37. says

    Emily, I just saw the comment you left for Kimba. I’ve been reflecting on you words for hours now. I was caught off guard by your comment to her because… I swear. You were writing to ME. 😉

    Just beautiful.

  38. says

    Emily – I think we share so much of the same heart. I long to be who God made me to be and walk that out in holy confidence and freedom. And then I want others to experience that same freedom too!! I wanted to tell you about what God has recently called me to start – The Forgotten Initiative is a ministry dedicated to bringing joy and purpose to the foster care community! Our website is up and running – and we are on facebook too! Anyway, it is a blessing to watch how God continues to unfold your journey since She Speaks and mine too!

    Love you!

  39. says

    thank you for speaking the Truth. i find your site so encouraging, and cannot thank you enough for taking the time to write. i appreciate you.

    (on a side note…. do you sell your pictures by any chance? i’m assuming the photographs in your posts were taken by you? i love the one in this post – the stadium lights. i’m trying to think of a creative one year anniversary gift for my husband, who happens to be a football coach. the traditional one year gift is paper, and i just know he’d love that print….so if you’d be interested in selling a copy of that picture i’d be interested in buying it! i hope you don’t mind my asking….)

  40. Meredith says

    Thank your for yours words!
    I’m laughing, because I’m behind on reading your posts.
    One of my children is in therapy for leukemia.
    As I sit in the hospital this morning, my mind drifts to all the things I need to catch up on once she is discharged this afternoon.
    (you want to talk about a home that is never clean enough? LOL)
    I’m finding that things are slow going when my daughter has inpatient chemo.
    I half-heartedly considered taking up knitting as a way to pass the time. I could knit her hats, for when her hair falls out. LOL
    And then I remind myself to stay present, this is where I am meant to be right now, today.
    I think I’m on to something as I consider using times like this for creativity.
    I’m now smiling as I think of the hours that lie ahead, in clinic and overnight stays, that can be used for art.
    I am grateful for the gift of your words. Again, thank you!

  41. says

    Mercy. My heart aches for you and all who are pitting themselves against an imperfect perfection. We’re in such different places, you and I, and if I could wrap my arms around you, I would. Stuff doesn’t matter, it really just doesn’t matter.
    The only time I feel shame is when I’ve failed Him and, these days, that’s when I fail my husband as well. He has terminal cancer, early days…we think, but he struggles with the pain and is angry, bitter, short tempered with me and, I hate to say it, sometimes I respond in kind. Then, I’ve failed both Dave and Christ. The house is what it is and next month when the fifty, or so, people come for a picnic, I’m trusting they will be here to see Dave and not the house. If not, it’s between them and their God.
    It really just doesn’t matter. What matters is keeping our focus on the eternal…which is so much closer than any of us realize. What matters is shutting up and listening when the anguish is as painful as a toothache and we’d rather natter on about “stuff”. What matters is being Christ in a hurting world. What matters is Christ.

  42. Heather Anne says

    Excellent reminder. What a true gift of God-given inspiration. Thank you. I was just directed to your blog and find that this is exactly where God is walking me right now. Me needing to release what is already his. Learning not to compare but to look to the One who provides for what his blessings in my life. Not seeking perfection. Not seeking approval. Seeking only HIS face.

  43. says

    I know I have thanked you for this before, but I just have to again. Thank you for linking to older posts. I missed this one before, and it is just right for this day where I do feel so tremendously behind. I have just gone back to work part-time this year, and I just still haven’t settled into a place I like. As in, I feel soooo behind. Thank you for this reminder I am not meant to do it all. I think I have been trying to settle into a place that does not exist…a place where I keep it all together all the time. Not. Happenin’.

    This truly is a place for the soul to breathe. Thank you, Emily. Thank you for sharing His grace through your art.

  44. says

    Wow, this is exactly what is going on in my head right now.
    Chasing perfection, chasing expectation, chasing beauty.
    Thanks for the reminder that He tells us to come to Him & rest.

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