There are two things I’m holding in tension today.  One, I really want to be successful.  Two, I’m not. Yesterday, I got a call from my supportive and kind supervisor at the gym where I am a group fitness instructor, informing me that I was non-compliant with gym standards and I had to be pulled from the schedule immediately.

In short, I didn’t meet a deadline.

I’d been suspended from my job, and it was completely my fault.

So, on the one hand, I want to be successful, and on the other hand, I can’t manage normal responsibilities and tasks for my very part-time job.

There’s a tension between what I want and my reality—the dream I’m chasing versus the days I actually live.

I’ve been looking at the websites of some of my friends who are big in the blogging world.  They have more followers than the population of Denmark.  They write with grace, thoughtfulness and academic prowess.

I, on the other hand, blog irregularly and often write embarrassing stories about how I’m surprised I’ve kept my progeny alive as long as I have.

Most mornings, I’m ready to take on the world.  I set out on a brand new day with a to-do list and a cup of coffee- lukewarm coffee cooled by the exorbitant amount of creamer I always accidentally add.

I’ve realized I have to modify my to-do list if I’m going to feel the least bit successful.  So, along with running errands and teaching Zumba, I have to add things like “brush teeth” and “put on shoes.”  At least then (Lord willing) I know I can check something off of my list.

I put a few grander things on there too, like “Save Darfur” and “Adopt 3 crack babies,” just in case I have time.  But it’s probably more likely that today I’ll barely make it to Target.

Ellia has begun playing a game where she runs around helping people.  She made up her own theme song: “I’m a good girl and I’m there when you need me!”

In her game, she doctors the sick, she brings groceries to the poor, and she runs as fast as she can to get to the next crisis when her play kitchen phone rings.

“Hello?  This is Good Girl.  WHAT?!? Oh, no!  I’ll be right there!”

And… she’s off.

Today, after caring for Hello Kitty who was yakking her guts out, Ellia came and stood beside me.

“Mom, I wish I didn’t have a mommy or a daddy.  I wish I didn’t have school.  Then I could just run around saving people all the time.”

(I initially assumed it was the start of her blaming me for everything and wanting to drop out of school.)

I tried to explain to her that her circumstances might seem inhibiting, but she’s really not as limited as she assumes she is.  I reminded her of the projects she’s done, like handing out free water to people walking their dogs or the time she bought toys for kids who had very little at Christmas.

“You just have to be creative,” I said.

And then, I heard it.  I heard what I needed to hear come out of my own stupid mouth.

I may be suspended from my part time job.  I may have a special needs kid who frequently stays home from school.  I may have a 3 year old who still won’t sleep through the night.  But what if these were avenues for success instead of roadblocks?  What if my circumstances became the way I expressed greatness every day?

What we have in our laps, what we have on our plate might be the conduit through which we contribute to the world around us.

We just have to be creative.

Sure, we could answer calls for medical emergencies in third world countries more frequently if we didn’t have school or kids or jobs.  Maybe I could fight evil powers seeking world domination if I didn’t have to cook dinner or write workout plans.  But, what about the faces I encounter every day?  What about the people who text asking for prayer?

What am I missing right in front of me?

What if success wasn’t measured in the number of orphanages I start?  What if I could just be present to Jesus and those around me every single day?  Maybe that’s what success is, anyway.

The truth is, the world is wide open to each of us.   We all have physical, financial, or emotional restrictions.

But so what?  Who am I expecting myself to be?  Someone with zero obligations?  Someone who doesn’t have to come home at night?

Instead, think of how can you love, serve, give, and pour yourself out right where you are.

We are our worst limitation.

But, the world is completely open—nothing is off limits.  As carriers of the life of Christ, where we go, Jesus shows up.  When we stop comparing ourselves, when we can let go of selfish ambition and the attempts to earn spiritual favor, we can run and serve and love.  We can affect change and represent the heart of God to the world.

And when we believe this, we can bring groceries, clothe the poor, and care for the sick as people who are loved by God.  And maybe, we can even have our own theme songs.