How to Embrace Your Right-Now Work Even if It’s Not Your Hoped-For Work

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I long to be a full-time writer. I used to keep that a secret because our dreams are vulnerable things to release to a watching world. What if it never happens? What if everyone then knows I’m a “failure” by my own standards? And maybe by their standards too?

The great thing about being in my 40s is that I’m a tad more brave. I’m less afraid to tell you what I truly desire and what I really think. This year, I resolved to write brave. Less sugarcoating. Fewer disclaimers. More real.

So there you go. I’ve said it. Writing is my dream job. Not because it sounds easy or lucrative but because my DNA has the helix of a writer.

{And that last sentence is precisely why I will never be a scientist.}

Perhaps your dream job is teaching middle school kids or coaching young runners or being able to quit your full-time job so you can be at home with your children.

Right now my real life means I don’t get to be the purveyor of words as I’d like to be. There are other priorities that trump writing.

Roles like wife and mom and domestic engineer coexist with my part-time paid job. {A part-time paid job that involves writing so yay for that.} And jobs that give you money are critical because they pay for necessities like groceries and kids’ braces and my orthodontist’s flat screen televisions.

I’m profoundly grateful for my work — the work that pays me and the work that doesn’t. Sometimes God gives me glimpses of my unique purpose in a particular task, why I’m just the person for it. That insider’s look is a rare privilege we don’t often get.

But much of life doesn’t feel affirming like that, does it? Like you, I live in the tension between the real and the ideal. Whether it’s vocation, marriage, motherhood, or keeping house, I confess that plenty of my right-now work isn’t my hoped-for work.

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MI-Wolverine

I believe I can admit these things and still be grateful for my real life. I believe it’s possible to embrace my right-now season of motherhood even as I’m nostalgic about the already-gone season and weepy about the yet-to-come season. I can acknowledge that it’s hard and exhausting and I don’t know what I’m doing. And also that it’s wonderful and I’ll probably miss it one day.

Right-now motherhood doesn’t always look like hoped-for motherhood. I love my children even though I sometimes want to kick motherhood to the curb.

So how can we grateful for what we have yet still long for something else?

Part of the answer lies in the fact that we do this every day in countless ways. You may have everything you once hoped for — marriage, children, home, community, work. But that doesn’t mean you’re not struggling. This is what it’s like when we live in the place between dreams come true and dreams that aren’t yet. 

Because I’m a Christian, I believe that every good gift in this world is a reflection of what we’ll one day taste in all of its fullness. Even the most obvious gifts this life may offer now — the gorgeous home, the beautiful family, the dream job, the revitalized neighborhood, the perfect meal — are but dim reflections. We were created to enjoy good gifts. These are ancient and sacred longings.

But I’ll be the first to confess that my longing for the gifts usually displaces my longing for the Giver.

I know this. But it doesn’t stop me from trying to gather up as many dim reflections as I possibly can, hoping that the sheer abundance of them will add up to the shining, glittering fullness I long for.

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Back to my dream of a full-time writing life. Right now I don’t get to write my own stuff as much as I’d like. I can be pouty about it on the inside. Sometimes I even feel downright panicked, which is weird. But when that panic settles into my chest, it signals two different things that can actually coexist even though they need to be unpacked differently.

1. That my agenda for my life has displaced my trust in God’s agenda for my life. 

and / or

2. That I’ve succumbed to fatalistic, “all or nothing” thinking. When that’s the case, it’s time to think outside the box and and step forward with hope and possibility. 

I’ll get to this second issue in my next post. For today, let’s camp out in the first issue.

My agenda for my life has displaced my trust in God’s agenda for my life:

When I’m holding my agenda with white knuckles, it’s become an over-desire. I’m believing the lie that I know best what I really need to be fulfilled and that my real life is getting in the way. It makes me super fun to live with.

This doesn’t mean that certain things, like writing and communicating, shouldn’t be as life-giving as they are to me. It doesn’t mean I should feel guilty about the way I’m wired. And it doesn’t mean that writing can’t be pursued in some form.

This also doesn’t mean that I need to pull myself up by my bootstraps and pretend to love the many mundane but essential tasks that make my family’s world and budget go ’round. It doesn’t mean I should feel guilty because I don’t love ALL THE DOMESTIC THINGS.

I’m human, y’all. And so are you. Like I said, we have the ideal and we have the real. Living in the middle is not for the faint of heart. And let’s be honest, work is called work for a reason. It’s literal labor.

Here’s what I’m getting at:

Sometimes my right-now work feels like it’s interrupting my true work. And when that happens, it means my ideal life has smothered the gifts and opportunities of my real life. 

Friends, this is backwards. Not to mention dangerous.

I love what C.S. Lewis says about real life:

C.S. Lewis quote

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So what’s the secret?

We all walk a fine line as we seek to establish the rhythms and priorities of our everyday lives. How do we know what to let go of {or possibly even outsource} and what we need to keep? Sometimes we say yes to things we shouldn’t and they become obstacles that keep us from our real priorities and a life of semi-sanity. Sometimes we mismanage our time and that keeps us from our truest priorities. I’m guilty of both.

But sometimes our real priorities are the very things keeping us from our hoped-for work. That’s the season I’m in. Maybe you’re feeling it too.

I can panic over this. {And I have.} Or I can make peace with it and dare to receive the beauty and opportunity, realizing that this “really is the life God is sending me day by day.”

The heart of the issue reveals that I’m in a standoff with Trust.

 

  • God, do I trust that you know best right now?
  • Do I trust that there are purposes I may never know?
  • Do I trust that there is a time for everything and every season under Heaven?
  • Do I trust that you are still doing unseen “kingdom work” in the midst of my right-now life?

 

When I’m able to answer “yes” to those questions, I can embrace my right-now work because I trust that God has given it to me. This is not a cosmic killjoy sort of God. This is the God who loves me and created me. He is cheering me on. He is actively living through me, whether I’m cleaning up dinner, forgiving someone who’s hurt me, publishing a blog post, working at my job for a local non-profit, or asking for wisdom.

Trust is freedom.

And free people are way more awesome to be with than fretful, bound-up people. I don’t know about you but I want to live free, no matter how bound-up my circumstances seem.

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I can embrace my right-now motherhood, messy though it is, because God is humbling me every day through it. And even providing moments of great hilarity and joy, despite all the tears and fears.

I can embrace my seemingly insufficient writing life because He’s the one who put words in my soul. I can trust Him with the offering and the outcome, no matter how meager it seems.

I can embrace my current path of struggle while I hope and pray for a breakthrough.

Each day, I know what it’s like to sit down at a table where both Celebration and Frustration are dinner guests for the same meal. I’m learning that I don’t have to resist this hard-to-swallow reality; I can simply receive it.

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Jesus is the secret behind the secret.

I can write all day about receiving your own life. I can motivate you with words like “accept” and “embrace” and “gratitude.” But those are superficial fixes if I don’t tell you the real secret.

Jesus dealt with this same issue when he lived real life on this earth. Scripture says he sympathizes with every hard thing we’re going through because He can relate.

I don’t throw in Jesus at the end of a post because it’s the Christian way to wrap this up. I speak from the realness of his Word and from my right-now life. I speak from weeks that have dredged up more questions than answers, weeks where The Gospel of Marian’s Way has ever so subtly and subversively displaced The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When I examine the life of Jesus, I see that He was fully human. He had plans for each day, much like I do. He got hungry. He became tired. He sometimes needed a break from the crowds. He knew what it was like to be frustrated and discouraged, even angry. He was bursting with gifts and wonders that he sometimes had to keep on the down-low.

He held so much human potential. 

How ironic then, that Jesus, the greatest communicator and miracle-worker the world has ever known, spent 30 years in the trenches of the everyday and only three years in public ministry.

Every interruption, every annoyance, and every grand opportunity — they were all received within a single framework: the will of the Father.

It’s taken over 2,000 words in a blog post that’s breaking every rule of the internet to arrive at the truth I never realized until I wrote it:

Jesus receive your own life quote

So that WE can receive our own lives in the same way.

Jesus knew what it was like to live in the tension. He prayed over his own suffering while also receiving it. And aren’t we exceedingly grateful? Because He received his own life, He released the hope of redemption into every nook and cranny of the world.

This same Jesus is alive and well within those who believe. It means that we too can make our plans and dream our dreams and serve the world with our gifts. But we proceed like He did, from a place of trustful and hopeful surrender to the Father’s will.

You don’t have to choose a life of exciting intention OR a life of dismal surrender. Jesus weaves all things together into the cohesive fabric that is your life. Ironically, limitations and possibility are BFFs. {But they usually hate each other before they can become friends.}

Receiving your own life means you hold all things — the mundane and the marvelous — with open hands of gratitude, acceptance, hope, and possibility.

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Yesterday a friend sent me some encouragement from Psalm 25. The title for that Psalm is “Teach Me Your Paths.” In it, David pleads for protection, for deliverance, for wisdom about how to proceed from his troubling circumstances. Instead of formulating his own strategy, he affirms the attributes of God and takes comfort in his love and character. In verses 20-21, David asks these things:

Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.

See that little word “hope” there at the end? Tim Keller says this about “hope” as it relates to this passage:

Verse 21 uses the word ‘hope’ to translate a term that means to wait eagerly for God. This is not resignation or passivity but an active stance toward life.

Did you hear that? Hope is active and eager!

But hope is not like a relay baton. We don’t grab hold of it and take off sprinting toward our own glorious win. Rather, we sit with it. We pray over it. We release it to the One who is Hope incarnate, the One who holds all things, including our very lives and longings, in his loving hands.

Friends, we can receive the here and now. We can enjoy the presence and power and perspective of Christ today. And we can do that while waiting eagerly for a more spacious place — whether that spacious place is a different job, a less exhausting season of parenthood, resolution in a difficult marriage, or more time to pursue the longings that God has placed in your heart.

Here’s what I know. There is freedom in receiving your own life. And there is hope for redemption.

But it might mean dying to your current agenda, which isn’t the same thing as dying to your dreams.

Nearly all of the most cherished and beautiful gifts in my life have been born out of something that either hurt badly or had to die. “Interruptions” can be gifts like that.

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If you’re like me, living within the tension of your right-now and your hoped-for, here’s a prayer for us, an arrow to rightly orient our minds before we can move forward with possibility.

May this prayer divinely settle into the soil of our hearts:

God, I thank you for my right-now work and my right-now life. I acknowledge that my right now is sacred, a gift from a personal and sovereign God who knows my needs and the needs around me. 

I confess that I long for more, that my right-now work and my right-now life seem insufficient and incomplete. Bottle my longings like you bottle my tears. Sow them in fertile soil and bring about the proper fruit in due time.

May you bring me joy in the right now, diligence in my daily tasks, strength when I am weary, wisdom for the days ahead, and grace for the moments when my ambition and my agenda try to grab the throne that rightly belongs to you. 

Jesus, help me to receive my own life just as you received yours. Give me eyes to see redemption and a heart that isn’t afraid to hope. 

Amen.

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A disclaimer and what’s coming next {even though I said earlier that I’m done with disclaimers}:

A looooong post, I know. But I hit publish anyway. If you’ve made it this far, thank you. {And congratulations. Now go have a sandwich.}

While I absolutely believe that my agenda for my life can easily displace God’s agenda for my life, I also believe that it’s okay and even fruitful to prayerfully pursue our hoped-for work even as we accept our right-now work. They’re not mutually exclusive, you see.

But we can’t move forward with hope and possibility if we’re not rightly receiving our own lives first.

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Need more possibility even as you receive your own life? 

This is the first post in a mini-series on the blog that’s all about moving forward with hope, even as we appreciate the gifts of the right-now.

 

Enjoy these additional posts in the series!

How to Embrace Your Right-Now Work Even if it’s Not Your Hoped-For Work

One Gift Your Right-Now Work Is Giving You, Even If You Smell Like Marinara Sauce

4 Simple Ways to Create Time When You Don’t Have Any to Spare

4 Reasons Why Your Right-Now Work Matters to Jesus {even if it doesn’t matter to you}

2 Ways to Give Your Hoped-For Work a Voice. Right Now.

3 Ways to Avoid Despair as You Pursue Your Hoped-For Work

“Never stop starting.” And 5 Other Truths to Keep Your Hoped-For Work Alive in the Midst of Your Right-Now Life

8 Favorite Resources to Help Make Your Hoped-for Work a Possibility in Your Right-Now Life

Subscribe in the box below and you’ll receive each new post in the series.

Hope and possibility, straight to your inbox!

 

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*header image and clothesline image courtesy of Pixabay. Amazon link is an affiliate.

Comments

  1. Deborah says

    I’m sitting at my desk where I do my “right now” work with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I needed this. It’s like you took the words right out of my heart.

    I’ve been in this tension of the “right now” and the “hoped for” for a REALLY long time. Some days it seems like I can’t handle one more day in that tension and I just want to walk away.

    Thank you for these words. I’m going to print this post and read it repeatedly in the days to come as I process and pray.

    Looking forward to the next post.

    • Marian says

      Bless you, my sweet friend. From one gal to another, I totally get it. Most of all, Jesus gets it. He’s your best friend and your source of strength and perspective. Thanks for your precious comment. It’s a gift.

  2. Lynn says

    Thank you for this post. I have to reread and digest three times and still trying to absorb it. But, it is right where I am at, trying to come to terms with my here and now. Can’t wait for the next one.

  3. Linda says

    I can relate so much to this and think you should write a book on this very topic one of these days! : )

    Last year I wrote…’learning to hope in a manner that expands my trust in God and is not tied to the one and only outcome I perceive best.’

    Keep doing what you’re doing, you’re a blessing.

    • Marian says

      Linda, THANK YOU for that encouragement. That’s a high compliment. I love your words about hope and trust and outcomes. Yes! That’s precisely it. {And not at all easy.}

  4. says

    Marian, these posts. I’m SO thankful the Nester shared them in the Hope*writers group. For me, your words are joining with others I’ve read, like dots connecting and spelling out God’s heart for the artist. As someone who has been living in the tension (though- aren’t we all??) I confess that I’ve really just been wrestling with the tension. Your message echoes what I think God is telling me right now; it’s helping me dwell in the gift of “right now” and hold every dream with an open hand. What a relief to stop trying to hold onto things that only God can hold in the first place! Just saying thank you. {Also, if it’s alright with you, I may link to this article/series in a future series I’m thinking of doing in the next couple of months about being a Kingdom Creative.}

  5. says

    Here my reviewAliens come to earth and I waste my time watching them &#0GN8;TRYI22” to survive. Wtf just die already your fucked you cant fight back why waste my time.

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