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© 2019 by Becky Beresford, Author

Daring to Break Up with Productivity

By Emily Sue Allen

God's Brave Women - Emily's Story


I haven’t updated my resume in over fifteen years. I’m sure it still reads something like, “Self-motivated, high-achieving college graduate seeking employment in a rewarding customer service role,” with a snappy list of my mastered skills and relevant work experience. Things were simpler then. It was a time when finding satisfaction in life hinged on receiving a regular paycheck, which spoke to my longing for validation and supplied me with a sense of purpose, not to mention the means to pay bills. With a job and the evidence of a productive life, I didn’t have to pay much attention to the aches hiding under the surface of my soul.


Convenient.


Set goals, make lists, get to work, stay up late—a thrilling, but not terribly sustainable way to live for years on end. I thought the pursuit of productivity was a noble, admirable thing. I’ve believed responsible people get lots of things done, and bearing fruit in my life hinges on the ability to get more out of a day than most others, even if it means pushing myself to—or beyond—my limits. I’ve been in search of the perfect recipe to keep all the spinning plates in the air and not result in a crash and burn every few months.


"I’ve believed responsible people get lots of things done, and bearing fruit in my life hinges on the ability to get more out of a day than most others, even if it means pushing myself to—or beyond—my limits."


Instead of working a job these past fifteen years, I’ve been square in the season of adding children to our family—seven of them—some planned, some delightful surprises. I have attempted to both give myself completely to mothering well—keeping all my kids alive, fed, and relatively happy through all the demands and challenges of life—and I have also tried to tend a creative life outside of mothering… you know, with all the extra time on my hands. I started an online community for moms and a podcast, and I have hustled toward the goal of one day being a published author. I’ve networked, engaged a variety of platform-building strategies on social media, and learned the nuts and bolts of establishing a sustainable writing habit in the midst of the unpredictable days of raising children.


I have feared missing opportunities. I’ve been tempted to hurry through, to strategize and organize my way to living my own version of “having it all,” however I might manage to do that, and have done so without accounting for the expense constant productivity requires.

I have also been swimming through confusing waters: feeling a strong desire to be constantly productive and a pull toward what my family needs from me, plus the inconvenient discovery that I cannot sustain the pace I’ve been keeping. It’s always been a little tricky, trying to find that invisible line that marks how much is too much to take on? And discerning, where is my energy best spent?


In the past 18 months, I experienced a surprise (last) pregnancy, a life-threatening pulmonary embolism that put me in the hospital and on bedrest for several months, a complicated pregnancy-delivery-postpartum season, and my first brush with intense anxiety attacks. Life as I knew it was flipped upside-down—a disorganized junk drawer overturned and shaken out, its contents a bit more vulnerable than I like.


My life-long desire to be an obviously productive and industrious woman has drained away and left behind the bare and raw reality that no amount of try-hard effort can save me from the uncomfortable truth about my tired and weary soul. I’ve had to face the fact I can’t remain blindly devoted to productivity as my highest priority. I didn’t know productivity and my relentless pursuit of industry was, in very real ways, keeping me from hearing and receiving the most beautiful gifts of God’s grace for me.


"I didn’t know productivity and my relentless pursuit of industry was, in very real ways, keeping me from hearing and receiving the most beautiful gifts of God’s grace for me."


At each bend in the road, I’ve held hope that if I can just get past this one challenge I might return to my impressive lists and routines. Inevitably, I get through that one challenge to discover another one has arrived, and I never can quite take hold of the reins like I want and drive this chariot to victory. I have cried many tears over the snail’s pace of my life, the inching forward—agonizingly—while it seems like everyone around me is running their race with finesse and grace. In this wilderness season, I’ve had to come to terms with my limitations, and my need to be held together and healed by the Lord, Himself—in His way, on His timeline, for His glory.


"I have needed courage to embrace the wilderness season, courage to slow my pace and reorient my perspective around the reality that God is not measuring me based on what I produce."


I have needed courage to embrace the wilderness season, courage to slow my pace and reorient my perspective around the reality that God is not measuring me based on what I produce. He is looking at (and asking for) my heart to be inclined toward Him and my ears to tune in to His voice, even if that means a painful re-education about my identity—from capable achiever to cherished, poor, and needy child of God.


I’ve had to make the courageous choice to break up with productivity. As much as I love her, she’s not a god who loves me and seeks my highest good. I need a Savior who will meet me in the wilderness place, whispering love to the center of my being regardless of what I have to show for the day, week, month, or year. This is grace.


Brave Woman Manifesto



Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!

And by the way...


You are Brave!

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About Emily



Emily Sue Allen is the founder of the Kindred Mom blog and host of the Kindred Mom podcast. She also is an ongoing devotional contributor to Joyful Life Magazine, a member of Hope*Writers, and has contributed writing in a variety of online spaces. Living a deeply nourished life, and helping women find joy in the midst of their motherhood journey are among her greatest passions. She lives with her husband and seven kids in the Pacific Northwest, and blogs at emilysueallen.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, “Notes on Nourishing,” for personal stories about intentionally nourishing your spirit, mind, and body. Find Kindred Mom on Instagram (@kindred_mom) and Facebook, and say hello to Emily personally on Instagram (@emily_sue_allen).