Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Of Anxiety Attacks and Striving

In the moments before I found myself literally lying on the kitchen floor, water still running in the sink and my oldest shouting for his dad, I remember agitation.

The day has been good but so stressful, the chaos of dinner and dishes coupled with relentless humidity. Those kids, they weren't listening. I was so tired of them not freakin' listening that I yelled loud even though the windows were open and the neighbors could surely hear. Like a drill sergeant, shouting out commands, my kids scattering. And then, that breathless feeling. A pulse, then crushing pain shooting up my neck. The dizzy off balance sway, the heartbeat hammering and finally my legs turning to jelly. The pan I had been scrubbing slipped from my hands and I grasped nothing but suds.

Oh no. Oh no. Help. The words slipped out like a whisper and the floor met me. 

He found me face down on the kitchen floor in a puddle of tears, gasping like a fish out of water. 

It isn't the first time anxiety has claimed me as a victim. Not the first time my life has overwhelmed me to the point of physical symptoms. Once we took a few deep breaths and confirmed all was well, after I drank a glass of water and sat quietly on the couch for a bit, I found my way back. Finishing up the dishes, I considered. What is this worth? 

The striving. The constant doing. The rushing and the stress. All of the things I invited upon myself until I could literally take no more. What are they worth? 

See, when you shoulder your own burdens they can pull you right down in front of your kids. When you hold all the fear and stress, when you convince yourself "I've got this" despite signs and signals to stop, you're heading for disaster. 

I've been thinking a lot about God's provision lately, and I'm realizing that believing on that is the antidote to striving. What if instead of worrying about 

Kids, finances, trips, marriage, dishes, cleaning, horrors on the news

I claimed His provision over those things instead? What if my choked off cry for help happened before disaster struck?

Sometimes a little reminder that motherhood does not equal omnipotence is warranted. Sometimes we just keep rushing and churning and pushing and burning. That kind of overuse of a simple human can land you in an emergency room - or worse. Becoming a Mother does not turn you into some sort of goddess without basic human needs. We forget that because we get so good at living on the brink, edging just a little bit closer with every additional thing we take on - until one little nudge is all it takes to send us toppling straight down.

Dear Mamas, do not forget to love you. Do not forget to mother yourself. Do not get so caught up in striving to ensure everyone else in your family comfortable and nurtured and well rested and fed that you forget all about yourself.

You are not God. It's not all up to you. There's a certain sort of pride we enjoy, a certain bit of honor that we like the feel of. When our kids are matching and neat in the church pew. When our husbands come home to a clean calm home with supper waiting. When we lose the last bit of baby weight. As is often the case, there is nothing wrong with any of those things on their own. Indeed, they can be a wonderful expression of a life full of grace, happiness, hard work and love. But if you're pushing yourself to accomplish these things to the point where your very mental, physical and emotional health is being put at risk, you are crossing a line.

A line of spiritual significance.

When I strive at any cost, I place stress, anxiety and fear on a pedestal - and knock the truth of God's provision, mercy and grace to the floor.

When I refuse the gift of rest, I say "No" to God's plan for me.

When I push myself beyond reasonable limits, I am guilty of using someone made in God's image to bolster my pride.

When I allow myself to become the whipping boy for guilt and shame and mistakes and false starts, I refuse to acknowledge the life Christ died to give me - the gift of a clean slate and a burdenless soul.

Not all anxiety comes from stress. Not all exhaustion comes from lack of sleep. Not every problem can be solved by being more gentle with yourself.

But when I start there, really look at how I've been treating myself, I can see much to repent of. Many ways I could be more gentle with myself. Most of all, I see someone who God loves with a depth I cannot begin to comprehend. Someone I need to treat with every bit of charity, grace and love that I possess.

Mothers are people too.

Treat yourself like someone God loves, and hand him all the rest.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Off The Beaten Path

A car. A life vest. A trailer. The smell of sunscreen and bug spray. The feeling of the sun-scorched sand beneath your feet and the sweeping lake breeze whipping your hair. The sound of the waves at night.

Are these my children's memories or mine?

Happily - both.

This past week we went off grid and leapt through waves and put kites in the sky. We climbed dunes and watched the sun light up the sky all pinky purple at the end of the day. We slept soundly and close together. We licked ice cream and chased seagulls and climbed nature trails.

A family trip is many things to a Mama, but it is very rarely a vacation. Indeed, I did at least a load of laundry a day, nursed a sick baby for the first few days, washed dishes and made meals and if I thought I'd get much of a rest I would have been sorely disappointed. But the truth is, I didn't go on this trip for me. I did it for them - all for them.

And the beauty of giving without expectation is the abundance of what you get when you aren't looking to receive.

So I tuck into my little stash of memories the new ones I found this year.

Them riding that driftwood down the shore.

Her footprints in the sand

His face when he held that big fat toad

Basketball with Dad

Monarch caterpillars and the boy who loved them

My mom rocking my baby to sleep

My dad holding her dimpled toddler hand

The peace of shutting out the noisy world, tuning out and turning in to see the beauty of every created thing and the sure closeness of the One who holds them all for me to see.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

The One Thing To Do When You Can't See What Comes Next

She messages me because she can't say the words and even on facebook I can read the quaver in her words. "It's official."

 I can't breathe.

"We're moving, Lyd."

"Ok." I type back, too quickly, because if I don't say something positive now I'll lose it forever. "Ok."

21 years she's been as close as a sister. 21 years is enough time to think that some things never change. 21 years is longer than any relationship I've ever had aside from my own family and 21 years feels like an eternity and a flash all in one.

So when my best friend messages me on facebook that she's moving to California, my first thought is regret. California may as well be Mars as far as I'm concerned. We had babies this year, my 7th, her 5th. We homeschool and we raise littles and we can hardly fit in coffee with each other when we live 5 minutes apart. Yeah, regret hits me like a bus and I'm reeling.

Regret for all the times I could have seen her that I didn't. All the times I cancelled a get together or didn't return a phone call. All the times I forgot that our 21 year friendship is the answer to so many prayers and the encapsulation of a desire of my heart. Regret that I've been living the dream this whole time and I got comfortable. I got discontented. I grew blind to what was right in front of me. 

I think about it after visiting her in the hospital and holding her perfect baby #5. This is a gift. We got to be best friends and grow up together. We were there for weddings. We welcomed each other's babies. Stood in the trenches for each other in those hard early years of learning how to be on our own. Now I'll hold space for her while she navigates something new, scary, exciting and incredible. 21 years of a friendship like that - how can I be anything but grateful?

I get so caught up in my unfulfilled dreams that I can miss that I'm every day living proof that God has granted the desires of my heart. Even and maybe especially without me knowing it's exactly what I wanted. Today, lounging on my moms couch tangled up in the laughs if my sisters. This morning, cuddled awake by two giggling babes and the sunshine smile of my littlest love. This year, held in prayer by a woman I've had the pleasure of doing life with for 21 fantastic years. When I see it, I can intentionally live better. 

Living intentionally isn't about unplugging, or meticulously scrapbooking every moment of your life. Living intentionally is always, always about choosing love as much as you possibly can, yes, even at those times you think you can't. Because we are all made for this, to be love, to give love, to pass on love. And when you are choosing love you are always, always standing right smack dab in the center of His will for you, right now. You are aligned in His desire for you and when you're living in that space, amazing things happen.

To be a Christian is to be a little Christ. And what is God?


When I realize it, my panicked "what am I going to do?" response finds its answer.

Be love.

I'll be there the day that she loads her kids in the 12 passenger van that matches mine right down to the color. I'll be there when she leaves and I'll be love for her no matter where life takes her, no matter how long it's been. Knowing my purpose, I can intentionally choose His way through this - and see the light there up ahead.

That's the thing about love. It's not confined by space or time. It's something I can do from here for her no matter where she goes. 

It's the answer to a life full of giving away, of grappling with goodbyes.  

(Be)love. (Be)loved.

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