Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Friendship, Motherhood

Finding PEACE when we are FRAUGHT

FRAUGHT. Adj. (of a situation or course of action) filled with or likely to result in (something undesirable).
THIS IS OUR LIFE right now. NO clear answers, much less any that we like.
Should I send my kids to school in person, online or homeschool?
How should I respond if someone puts their hand out to shake mine?
How can I safely see my aging parents? Should I quarantine? For how long? What does that even mean?
What do I do at work when someone comes in without a mask on?
When should I plan that dentist visit?
How do I respond with my friends, online, on the news, with my family when other people are not making the same choices as me?
Should I have friends over? Inside? Where will they go to the bathroom?
Is it okay to serve at the soup kitchen? How close will I have to get to the other volunteers?
FRAUGHT.
YUP. We are FRAUGHT.
Whatever decision we make is likely to result in something undesirable.
So what are we to do to have PEACE in the middle of it all?
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DISCLAIMER: I’m on the same struggle bus sitting 6 feet away from you with my mask on. We are here kind of socially-distanced together, high-fiving and cheering each other along on this bumpy, twisty ride.
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Okay. Back to our regularly-scheduled programming.
I had one of these FRAUGHT-FILLED decisions just this weekend. I was officiating a small wedding and I suddenly remembered I was going to have to talk to people. The bride. The groom. The wedding coordinator. The parents. The little cute kids wandering around. I’d always done it with ease and now it was complicated. FRAUGHT!
Will they think I am rude? Should I stand six-feet away from them? What if someone is immunocompromised and I have no clue? What if they want me close to them?
I would love to tell you that I knew exactly what to do and how to do it and that I was super confident in my decisions ahead of time. HAHAHA. NOPE!
I reverted to all those things I normally do.
I asked my husband what to do.
I wrung my hands.
I called an officiant friend for his advice.
I freaked out a little inside.
But then, I had to get out of the car. I had to make my decisions. The wedding was upon me.
I put on my big girl pants (I mean dress in this case) and I did what I knew to be my own best practices.
  • JUST DO THE VERY NEXT THING. I am not in any kind of position to plan ahead because my world is changing at break-neck speed. Don’t add anything extra to my plate right now. Add my best version of LOVE into the mixture and trust it will be really okay in the end.
  • DIG DEEPER TO FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING ON BENEATH THE SURFACE. Is it fear? Is it bad boundaries? Is it people-pleasing? Is it comparison? Maybe it’s something good. Faith? Good boundaries? Being true to myself? Take a minute to listen.
  • WATCH HOW MY BODY RESPONDS TO EACH OPTION. Do I tense up or do I sigh with at least some measure of relief? Check myself again and again until I sense which direction my body is sending me.
  • SINK DOWN INSIDE OF MYSELF WHERE GOD DWELLS. He is filled wisdom and love, goodness and life, healing and hope and SO AM I. Trust my God-filled gut.
  • GIVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO CHANGE MY MIND. The decisions I make do not have power over me. I have power over them. There is not one right one choice and everything will go to “hell in a hand-basket” if I make the wrong one. Change is often a good thing. It means I am learning and growing.
Yes. I am FRAUGHT. I certainly was this weekend and will be again for the foreseeable future. So are you. We all are. It’s a perfect word for the times we are living in. NO GOOD OPTIONS.
But good options are not the dictator of whether we have PEACE. Peace comes from within, not from without. Nothing has the right to steal it away from us. NO ONE. NO THING.
We need PEACE so very desperately because it’s our GUIDE, our HOPE and FRIEND.
And it’s ours for the taking because, after all, the very Source of PEACE is with us and for us and around us and IN US.
IN US.
IN US.
So struggle-bus companions, let’s keep asking for and giving ourselves the gift of peace. The unexplainable, undeniable PEACE that is rightfully ours, if I may say so myself.

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Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Grief

How Did You Feel?

How did you feel, LITTLE ANT, the day your world was turned upside-down, the day I moved the huge rock that your whole little life revolved around and was protected by just so I could build a rock wall to line the fence in my yard?

How did you feel?

Maybe you felt…

CONFUSED.  You were scampering along, working hard to take care of your family, happily doing what you were supposed to do.  Suddenly, you found yourself exposed to a world you’d never known.  Maybe you asked yourself, “What the heck just happened?  Why oh why?”  I don’t blame you.  I would feel the same way.

Maybe you felt…

ANGRY.  I know you did because you bit me, at least three times.  I felt it sharply under my pants just moments later.  You know what?  I would bite me too.  Maybe it was all your little self could do to yell, “THIS IS NOT RIGHT!  SEND ME BACK TO THE WAY IT WAS!”

Maybe you felt…

OUT-OF-CONTROL.  After all, life as you knew it had just changed forever.  All those systems that you had put in place to make your little life easier and more predictable blew to bits.  Your formula for how the world works and works well was upended, to say the least.  When I ventured back to check on you, I saw a whole bunch of you just scurrying around, looking like you didn’t know what to do next.

Maybe you felt…

AFRAID.  Who wouldn’t?  I sure would.  Would some giant ant-eater come out of the woods and gobble you up?  Would your life ever look remotely the same as it had before the rock was taken away?  Would your ant family be okay with this new normal?  Would you be able to find another rock?

Maybe you felt…

SAD.  Some of your family and friends were just taken away from you, some never to be seen again and some that you don’t know when you will see again, eat with, play with and work with.  It’s just horrible, my little ant friend.  Just horrible.  It’s not really supposed to be this way and I’m so sorry what happened is putting you through this.  I would just stop right now and cry the tears that are rightfully yours.

Maybe one day, LITTLE ANT, you will have a whole new world, one where you will be working, taking care of your family, busily at peace and full of new adventures.  Yes.  I bet it will happen soon enough.

But for now, my new found friend, I get it.  I get you.

I’m with you and I AM you, more than you will ever know.

God-speed, my LITTLE ANT friend.

 

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Faith

Trust the Ripple

Social media altercations.
The confusion over COVID.
Systemic racism.
Riots and looting.
Unkind political rants.

I just want it all to STOP.  STOP.  STOP.

It’s too much for me.

WAY TOO MUCH.

One minute, I want to crawl into my bed and pull the covers over my head.  Wake up when this is all over.

The next, I have visions of marching in my very own one-person protest with a big bold sign that screams and shouts, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? (and ME for that matter)?”

Fifteen minutes later, I feel the forceful drive to “get the heck out of here!”  The colonization of Mars sounds pretty good about now!

After an hour, I’m sitting on the couch, binging my latest show, eating popcorn until my belly fights back.

It’s all WAY TOO MUCH.

I so desperately want peace and love and hope and harmony and unity.

I want LOVE and GOODNESS to beat back the forces that harm.

I cry out to God in the middle of it all.

What am I to do?  What am I to do?  I can’t fix this.

It’s all WAY TOO MUCH.

Covers?

March?

Mars?

Popcorn?

PLEASE!  It’s all I have.

Not true, God reminds me.  Not true at all.

You have ONE DROP of GOODNESS.  ONE DROP.

You can pop a comment on social media that encourages someone, reminding them they are not alone.

You can go to the local hardware store and buy that lightbulb.  You can wear a mask (even if you have no idea whether or not it really works).

You can call your black friend and have an uncomfortable conversation, listening to the pain that they’ve shoved down for much of their life.

You can pray for the looter and the looted, asking Me to do what I do best:  reconcile and redeem.

You can vote, mailing that ballot today.

But mostly, you can remind yourself that I am behind every single and seemingly insignificant DROP OF GOODNESS.

I can and will expand it beyond measure so that the world is changed for the better forever by that ONE DROP OF GOODNESS.

Trust ME and TRUST THE RIPPLE!

Trust the Ripples

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Grief, Health, Marriage, Motherhood

Which Voice Am I Listening To?

WHICH VOICE AM I LISTENING TO?

Inner Critic:  “You cannot stay on a workout regimen save your life.”

Inner Cheerleader:  “Start with 15 minutes again tomorrow.  You’ve done it before .  You can do it again. ”

Inner Critic:  “Your friends are probably so angry with you because you are not checking in with them as much as you used to.  It’s your fault if they don’t stick around.”

Inner Cheerleader:  “You have had to narrow down how much you are pouring out into people for your own well-being.  You’ve done that so that you can be a better friend.”

Inner Critic:  “You should NOT spend so much at the grocery store.  You need to stick to a list.”

Inner Cheerleader:  “It costs just a bit more to eat healthy, which has been a goal for you and your family.  Keep up the good work!”

Inner Critic:  “I can’t believe you are so racist?”

Inner Cheerleader:  “You are learning to listen to those who are not like you.  You will grow and change.  You always have.”

Inner Critic:  “Why do you tell people you have a good marriage?  You just had another fight with your husband.”

Inner Cheerleader:  “Look how far you have come from the early days.  You’ve seen how sometimes conflict brings closeness.  You have helped so many other couples because you can admit you struggle too.”

Inner Critic:  “You will never get to those boxes in the basement that need to be organized.”

Inner Cheerleader:  “You have been sorting through many things in your life, not all of them visible to the outside world.   You will get to it when you are ready.”

Inner Critic:  “You know that cookie you ate?  You blew it again.”

Inner Cheerleader:  “You know that cookie you ate?  Good for you for showing yourself it’s not about perfection, but about grace.”

Inner Critic:  “You didn’t set good boundaries again with your kids.  When will you get this right?”

Inner Cheerleader:  “Being a mom is a hard job, no matter how old your kids are.  Boundaries are tricky and complicated and you are really doing what you think is right in each different situation.  Also, you are really good at saying you are sorry when you blow it.”

Inner Critic:  “Why do you even bother to give advice?  To share your heart?  To try to make a difference?”

Inner Cheerleader:  “You don’t do it because you have it all together.  You do it because you are broken too and it’s in this broken place that we all heal each other.”

WHICH VOICE HEAPS SHAME AND DESTROYS?
WHICH VOICE WHISPERS GRACE AND BRINGS HEALING?

WHICH VOICE AM I LISTENING TO?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Marriage

2:30 AM

Why am I awake again?

Maybe it was that cookie.

Why did I eat that cookie at 9:30?

Sugar is not good for me that late.

It’s not the cookie.

There’s a lot to think about, and even more to worry about.

Who can sleep?

God’s got me.
I’m going to be okay.
Will I ever feel normal again?
The world is just not okay.
I can’t solve it.
I wish I could.
God can solve it.
Can He?
I can do my part.
What is my part?
I need to go back to sleep.
I’m going to be a mess in the morning.
I guess I should pray for someone else who is awake.
God, please bring peace to my friend who is super anxious and not able to sleep.
Wait a minute.
I am also super anxious.
My leg itches.
Why does my leg itch?
I hope I didn’t get poison ivy on our 400th hike.
Should I get up and check?
No. That will just make me more awake.
Try to go back to sleep.
It’s probably nothing.
I wonder why my husband doesn’t have any issue sleeping.
He’s very sweet, but it’s still really annoying.
I’ve been kind of a cranky in the house the last few months.
Well, duh. I’m not getting good sleep.
But I should try harder tomorrow.
Maybe if I turn over and face the other direction, I will be able to go back to sleep.
That light from outside is still on.
Should I get up and turn it off?
It’s just wasting electricity and we’re trying to save money every which way we can.
That reminds me. I have to call the electrician to fix our light fixture.
But maybe that should wait.
We are in the middle of a pandemic.
Stop being so ridiculous.
What are the chances of the electrician infecting me?
I can just leave the house and then Lysol spray everything he touches.
I hope Lysol wipes will finally get back in stock somewhere.
This pillow is just not comfortable.
God, can you please help me to get back to sleep.
There are a lot of people who don’t even have a bed.
I should be so thankful.
What is wrong with me?
I have everything I need.
What is wrong with me?
There I go again, heaping shame on myself. UGH.
I need to listen to that podcast on healing from shame tomorrow.
Am I ever going to be really okay?
Yes. I’m going to be okay.
I’m safe in God’s hands.
Nothing can happen to me that He won’t be with me.
That’s the truth.
I’m hanging on to that.
Maybe now I can actually go back to sleep.
Uh-oh. I have to pee.
Posted in Anxiety, Faith

LOST

Untethered.

Shaky.

Confused.

LOST.

How I have felt often in the last 86 days.

86 days since I’ve touched a human other than the two I live with.

86 days since I’ve entered a building without some level of trepidation.

86 days since I’ve not woken up wondering when all this will be over.

Untethered.

Shaky.

Confused.

LOST.

How I have felt often in the last 86 days.

Last week, I especially felt LOST.

I didn’t have words to speak.

I didn’t have the strength to muster.

I didn’t have the answers I long for.

I finally shared, tears streaming down my face, with some friends that my usually hope-filled, positive, “look-on-the-bright-side” self felt LOST.  Really LOST.

It was vulnerable.

It was scary.

It was hard.

BUT I’m so incredibly glad I did.

One of them spoke the most healing words of truth I’ve heard in the past 86 days.

86 days.  86 LONG days.  86 days of feeling LOST.

Here they are.

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Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Grief, Health

What Do You Want From Me?

I got real with Jesus just now.

I angrily pleaded, shouting in my mind, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME ANYWAY?

His gentle answer surprised me.

You have it all wrong, backwards in fact. It’s the question I’ve been waiting to ask you. What do YOU want from ME? What do YOU need? As a mom? As a wife? As a friend? As a woman? As a human? What do YOU need today?

Really, Jesus? Really? Cause I have a whole list. You ready?

I’m tired. Tired of holding it together. Tired of the extra work. Tired of the mental load. I NEED STRENGTH.

I’m confused. Not sure what to do in this new normal I find myself in. I NEED WISDOM.

I’m irritable. Emotions flying off the wall and out of my mouth. Cranky. I NEED PATIENCE.

I’m sad. Sad that so much good has been taken away. I’m really sad. I NEED JOY.

I’m afraid. It’s scary out there and even here in my own head. I NEED PEACE.

I’m discouraged. Everywhere I turn, it seems like bad news is being shouted loudly. I NEED HOPE.

This time around, His gentle answer did NOT surprise me, because it’s been buried deep in my heart for SO long, just waiting to emerge.

I’ve got all of this IN SPADES for you.
Truth be told, I AM ALL OF THIS.

I am STRENGTH.
I am WISDOM.
I am PATIENCE.
I am JOY.
I am PEACE.
I am HOPE.

There is plenty of ME to go around. I will give YOU all that YOU need today, because what YOU really need is ME.

Posted in Anxiety, Faith

I’m Afraid of it ALL

Politics.
Religion.
Even something as complicated as parenting choices or as simple as the choice of who to root for on the field.

And now COVID.

Accusations.
Judgment.
“I’m in this camp.”
Social media comment fights.
“I believe I’m right and you are wrong.”
Personal attacks.

“I want freedom at all costs!”
“I want safety at all costs!”

What’s at the root of it all?

FEAR.

WE ARE ALL AFRAID OF SOMETHING.

Dying.
Being wrong.
Not having enough _________ .
Being left out.
Suffering.
Not being liked.
The unknown.
Heights.

The list goes on and on.

To be honest, I’m afraid of it ALL.

BUT I don’t want to live and act from that place of FEAR.
I don’t want it to be the boss of me.

I hope to live and act from a much better place:  LOVE.

Here’s why:

LOVE begets GRACE.
GRACE generates KINDNESS.
KINDNESS breeds BELONGING.
BELONGING creates SAFETY.
SAFETY produces PEACE.
PEACE conquers FEAR.

“There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear.”
(I John 1:18)

Posted in Anxiety, Childhood, Faith, Friendship, Health, Thanks

Insomnia and SELAH

Good morning SELAH,
I loved seeing you yesterday, even though it was from a distance. I loved watching you play with our dog.  I loved hearing from your mom and dad about your hike in the meadow. I loved how we talked at the end about being “awake” together during the night.
Last night, I woke up a few times and just like I told you, I thought of you and prayed for you, that you wouldn’t be afraid like you’ve been the last few weeks.
But it was more than that and I want to tell you what happened.
When I woke up, I thought about the things that God is and then I thought about you.
The first thing I thought about is that GOD IS LOVE. He loves me. He loves you. But then I thought about you, your name. SELAH. I was told when I was about your age that when I saw that word in the Psalms, it meant, “pause and reflect.” So that’s what I did in the middle of the night.
I thought about God loving me and you and then I just laid there for a minute with your name: SELAH. I laid there and thought a little longer about how much God loves me and you. Paused and reflected.
The next thing I thought about is that GOD IS GOOD. He is good to me. He is good to you. Then I thought about your name again. SELAH. I laid there just another minute, pausing and reflecting.
The very last thing I thought about is that GOD IS WITH US. He is with me. He is with you. SELAH. I don’t think it was very long at all before I drifted back off to sleep.
I woke up a couple more times during the night and thought more about these three things. And YOU. Praying that God would help us to be able to rest and sleep and remember over and over and over again that He loves us. He is good to us. He is with us always.
SELAH, you are a beautiful young lady (I can’t believe you are only nine) and I am so grateful that I know you. I am so thankful that the name your mom and dad gave you helped me so much last night.
Tonight, if and when I wake up again, I’m going to be thinking about you and God and pausing and reflecting. SELAH.
If you wake up in the middle of the night this week (and I hope you don’t), remember that you are not alone and that I am “awake” with you, and God is taking care of us both.
Love,
Miss Esther
Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Health, Motherhood

DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER. (Pandemic Edition)

The vicious mantra of our world is three simple words: DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.

First, I am supposed to DO. Perform. Accomplish. Behave. “Make it happen.” Push.  “Get ‘er done.”  Move.  Cross-off.

NOW I’M SUPPOSED TO DO ALL THAT IN A PANDEMIC.

Second, I am supposed to do EVERYTHING. Exercise. Eat healthy. Brush teeth. Make friends. Manage social media. Keep learning. Stay neat. Be spiritual. Dress appropriately. Make money. Recycle. Manage time. Connect with family. Serve others. Dream big. Sleep.

NOW I’M SUPPOSED TO DO ALL THAT IN A PANDEMIC.

Third, I am supposed to do everything BETTERIN A PANDEMIC.

Stick to a quarantine exercise plan.  Go hiking and biking and walking and get outside for at least one hour a day.  PRESSURE.

Make completely nutritious and delicious meals from scratch with the limited supplies I am getting from the grocery store for all the people that are now in my house 24/7.  Take my Vitamin C, D, E, fish oil, folic acid, B, K, and some kind of probiotic so that I build my immune system against this crazy thing. PRESSURE.

Brush twice AND floss once every day, plus do a serious mouth rinse.  Avoid the dentist right now AND make sure I don’t get any cavities or weird tooth infections or gum disease or need anything for my mouth in the middle of all of this so that I don’t poison my dentist with my spit.  PRESSURE.

Create meaningful relationships with diverse people groups.  Do that now online.  Reach out to people I haven’t seen in a while because now I have boatloads of time and I should not waste it on Netflix or Facebook.  Oh, and write snail-mail letters.  PRESSURE.

Keep my social media to a minimum while remaining completely engaged with those in my networks.  Feel super guilty for the amount of time I am spending on Facebook and Instagram trolling for glimmers of hope.  PRESSURE.

Take an online class (after all, now is my perfect opportunity) AND possibly teach one myself. Listen to life-changing podcasts. Read a book a week (or at this point, two).  Stayed informed about the virus from reliable sources without freaking out.  Actually, stay off the news.  Which is it???  PRESSURE.

Have carefully marked and organized spaces for everything I own, even though the Container Store is closed and Amazon is running low on command strips.  Make do with what I have in the house currently.  Clean out my car with a Q-tip, but don’t use the Lysol wipes.  Use Windex and paper towels, but rip those in half.  PRESSURE.

Go to church regularly (now online, plus the mid-week prayer meeting they’ve added).  Read a daily devotional first thing every morning and find one that will keep you hopeful, and not more stressed. Pray for everyone everywhere…nurses, doctors, the army, your friends, people in the hospital, your government leaders, the homeless, senior citizens, the immune-compromised.  Give to all the charities that desperately need it right now because funds will run low, plus my poor church that won’t be getting all the cash in the basket.  Be in a small group or two or three (online, of course). Be like Jesus, for goodness sake.  PRESSURE.

Get dressed even though I’m not going anywhere.  Look like nothing has changed in my world.  Find hair-dye and apply it myself via video chat with my hair dresser.  Make sure I don’t let any gray hair peak through in the next few weeks.  Cut my own hair.  Stop wearing my yoga pants.  That only adds to the mental health issues I’m already facing.  Do not sleep in my clothes that I wore during the day.  PRESSURE.

Keep my job at the same time I am staying home.  Don’t get furloughed and collect unemployment and become a drain on the system.  Make sure to watch the stock market and figure out what to do about its falling numbers every single day.  Don’t spend needless money right now, but keep the economy going at the same time.  Take out life insurance.  Berate myself about not moving money to a “safer” place before all this happened.  Did I mention calm down and don’t add to the panic buying of all the paper towels?  PRESSURE.

Rinse out every bottle and remove all the wrapping before I place it in the bin. Do not hide mostly-empty jars of peanut butter that are impossible to get clean under the trash in the garbage can from my newly-home college Environmental Science major.  Don’t kill the planet for goodness sake.  PRESSURE.

NEVER waste time. Especially now that I have a boatload of it.  Make a schedule of all my activities for the day (see all the notes above) and stick to it.  Everyone is saying it’s good for my mental health (which I am completely responsible to keep in check right now as well).  Check all the boxes off my list every day because I am doing all the right things at the right time and in the right amount of time with no interruptions.  PRESSURE.

Be with my family 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Find meaningful ways of connecting with each person.  Homeschool all my kids under 18 and make sure my college students are not seeing their friends and infecting the population at large.  Don’t have any fights even though everyone is completely irritable.  Make puzzles, limit screen times, go outside, do a craft, make dinner together.  Remember, the time is short and I will regret not making the most of it.  Manage everyone’s mental health issues that are bumping up against each other, especially my own.  PRESSURE.

Serve the homeless at a soup kitchen (is that still even allowed?).  Clean that closet out and donate all my unused clothes (make sure I wash them first).  Drive them to one of those bins during non-curfew hours so that I don’t get in trouble with the police.  Give toilet paper to my elderly neighbor without touching him.  PRESSURE.

Create space every day for the pursuit of my passions.  Find a vocation that fits my personal purpose.  Guiltily remind myself that it takes 10,000 hours of complete dedication to master a skill, and also guiltily remind myself I actually might have 10,000 hours right this very moment, one like no other.  Think about all the amazing possibilities this has opened up for me.  PRESSURE.

Lastly, get plenty of sleep (even more than the recommended 8 hours) even though my heart is racing three times with a mini-panic attack in the middle of the night.  It’s the best thing for my immune system, so I’ve heard.  There are no excuses.  PRESSURE.

STRESS CLOSES IN LIKE A MONSTER, CHOKING THE LIFE OUT OF ME!

NO WONDER MY HEAD HURTS!
NO WONTER MY SHOULDERS ARE TENSE!
NO WONDER MY STOMACH IS IN KNOTS!
NO WONDER I’M A LITTLE CRANKY!

DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.


The very simple, gentle lilt of Jesus is this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with ME and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-29 The Message Version)

BIG SIGH FOR MY EXHAUSTED, ANXIOUS HEART.

I need this today and now like no other.

Jesus, help me listen to the whispers of your grace instead of the shout of the world.

 

**If you’ve taken a minute to click on this from social media and it meant something to you, would you mind heading back out to social media and hitting the “like” button or commenting on it.**