Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Work Smarter with a Heart at Peace

You know the feeling that you are doing everything, and yet, nothing well? It's born of a season of too many plates spinning, too little attention paid to what really matters, and it leaves you harried, anxious, lonely, angry, maxed out, and stressed.

My INTJ-crave for depth and competency makes me a bit intense about life. So people are assured of my competency and dependability, I often say yes to things when I should say no. I ignore what's going on in my heart and what is happening to the relational threads around me in favor of my to-do list.

Sowing this pattern in my life means I have cyclically reaped seasons of extreme burn out and loneliness. I hit the low point of this repeating cycle a few months ago.

No one is meant to do everything, but while some personalities thrive on activity, INTJs are wired for focus and depth. The life of a working, homeschooling, mom of two little people is not a life that lends itself to focus. But, since it is the life God has called me to, it also shouldn't be filling me with anxiety and anger and burnout.

In the past few months the Lord revealed to me the pervading lack of peace in my life. I came face to face with the story of Mary and Martha where "Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to [Jesus] 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'” (Lk. 10.40-42).

Honestly, as a "doer," this story has always bothered me. I mean, someone has to get things done, right? But when I read it this time I didn't read Jesus rebuking Martha's to-do list. I read him seeing a "doer" in the state she had worked herself into: a heart that was "anxious and troubled about many things." He was gently calling her out of anxiety and striving and into a heart at peace.

In a recent meeting we were asked to come up with one thing, that if we did it well, would cultivate success in ministry and family and life in general. I wrote down "Work smarter with a heart at peace." After I wrote it, the weight of what God has been speaking into me resonated deeply and I have decided to adopt this saying as a rule of life during this life-season.

I can't just work harder--there aren't enough hours in the day. I have to work smarter. I need to attend to the things that are most important and I need to have a pulse on where my heart is in the midst of life's craziness. I can't say yes to everything. It is OK to do less in order to do it well. It is necessary to place peace at the center of all life's striving.

Working harder without peace brings anxiety, helplessness and resentment. I know these feelings well, so I have claimed Philippians 4.6-7 as an operating guide to live out a heart at peace. It says that the peace of God comes through prayer and thanksgiving and it will guard my heart.

As a "doer" and as a working, homeschooling, mom of two kids my heart can use some guarding. When I feel anxiety working it's tired wheel in my head I have been trying to replace it with a short prayer for the need I feel squeezing my chest and a "thank you" for whatever it is that I feel so deeply about. I know myself and this will probably be a life-long journey but little by little I have felt peace seeping into my soul and the wisdom and strength to re-prioritize my to-do list. Perhaps one day I will be able to "work smarter with a heart at peace" with more ease but for now I am taking each step in the right direction as a victory.

Some resources that have helped in my journey:


  1. Grace for the Good Girl is another good one. Fellow INTJ homeschooling WAHM mom of two here. I am currently in the middle of my year of no. I cut the kids back to one commitment and I've said no to everything else. I'm working on learning to set better boundaries AND to figure out what to do with myself when I actually allow myself to have free time.

    1. I have heard of that book but have yet to check it out. It sounds like I need to! It's nice to know there are other INTJ homeschooling W(mostly)AHMs of two out there and surviving :)!

  2. I homeschool my kids too. I tend to get frustrated with them when they don't understand the first time, or the second time... My daughter actually reminded me the other day that they were just kids. Sigh. Someday I'll get it right. (Oh, look, how INTJ of me!)

    1. I so understand and I've only got one school-aged kiddo so far!

  3. I just found your blog by googling INTJ and ministry. I can't describe my feeling of finding home. Thank you. I am in an ordination process, wondering where I fit. It's still a question. Your blog reminded me why the question is not easy.

    1. I love being able to connect to other INTJ women out there because it's so rare to find in real life :)! We actually aren't alone!

  4. Hi Adria-- thanks for your blog. I'm rediscovering my Intj femaleness, as once again I get frustrated with myself and my limitations as a Christian, mum of 3, friend, lawyer etc etc, It periodically gets really hard living in a world where we are aliens and strangers in many senses, and while I usually go to God for identity comfort, sometimes it's nice to see from the Intj community that I'm not broken, I'm how He made me. Even if it makes social stuff, ministry (I used to do campus ministry) and mothering hard. Gaah! Are you Australian, btw? Just noticed the web address. I am. I'm also very tall.....All the better to intimidate people, sadly. Anyway, I'll keep an eye on your blog. And would love your thoughts on ministry, growing in godliness and where we private types fit.

  5. Hey everyone! Can't say what a relief it is to find other INTJ women out there; for most of my life I was convinced that I was my own species of human, or at least my own gender.

    Anyway, it'd be great to hear about your decision to marry and be a mom. I have "mommy issues" from my own mother, never considered myself as a mother (I also find the thought of pregnancy equally terrifying and terrible), and find my personality type to be a poor fit for parenting. At least as a mom. Clearly, after reading about other INTJ moms, it's not always the case.

    Anyway, marriage and motherhood are decisions I feel are swiftly approaching the next 5 years of my life (I'm 28), and I'd like to hear your thoughts on all of it in retrospect.

    Anyway, so glad to stumble upon this inspirational blog! Cheers and God bless!