Overwhelmed? Stop.

I admit it: I tend to live life at a pretty high stress level. What I mean by that is, at any given time, my “normal” would be considered “too much” by many. I juggle a lot of different roles/jobs/titles. I travel a ton. And when I talk about what’s going on in my life, I routinely hear things like, “I don’t know how you do it! I would go crazy if I had your schedule.”

Well, to those of you who have said (or thought) that about me, it might comfort you to know that this week, it is too much—even for me.

Here’s a snapshot of the last six weeks, to give you an idea of where I’m at: I spent the last week of March in Virginia for a week, during which time I was in Roanoke, Charlottesville, Richmond, and Kilmarnock, sleeping in four different places in seven days.

I came home to Seattle for Holy Week. As I am the music director at my church, that was a full one, with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday services. On Easter Sunday night, I took a red eye to DC, where I attended a wonderful conference, which meant I was “on” from eight in the morning til eleven at night. From DC, I went to NYC, where I performed a concert and then came home to Seattle.

Four days later, I went to San Diego for a night, then on to Mexico, where, for three days, I helped build a house. My husband and I got home from that last Monday, and have spent this week working on packing and painting in the house we just bought, which we are moving into this weekend.

Meanwhile, I was delighted to be cast in a short piece that’s part of a wonderful theater festival in Seattle taking place next weekend, so I’ve been in rehearsals for that. And, oh yes, I work full time.

And did I mention that I came down with bronchitis the day before we left for Mexico?

So guess what? It’s too much. I confess: I’m feeling a wee bit overwhelmed.

# # #

When it occurred to me that this was the case, I stopped right in the middle of packing up my kitchen cabinets to take a breath. I don’t get overwhelmed. So I decided to ask God to help me see my circumstances with a different lens, so that I will be able to get through the next few days without, well, just “getting through” them. How can I—or any of us—live through overwhelming seasons without giving in to the stress and losing the opportunity to live life to the fullest every day?

Here’s what I came up with. I’m putting it into practice this weekend. I don’t want to give even one single day away to being “stressed out” (I hate that phrase). Even during crazy times like this, I want to be able to laugh at the days to come.

# # #

Stop… and take a breath. Look around you. Take it in. For me, today, this meant looking at the half-packed rooms filled with boxes and piles and dirt, and reflecting on a few memories from the year I’ve lived in this house. It was my first year of marriage. The first place my husband and I lived together. My first home in Seattle. My heart was immediately lifted as I thought about dinner parties and movie nights and all five seasons of Friday Night Lights on Netflix and my little office and wedding gifts (I found some while I was packing that haven’t been used yet!). And the laughter—these walls have resonated so much laughter in the last year! Immediately, instead of feeling stressed, I felt grateful for a wonderful first home with my husband and the sweet memories we have here.

Stop… and pray. Invite God right into the center of your storm. Remember, the God of Universe is already with you in it—you just need a little help being aware of God’s presence. And once you are, you will be comforted. The one who loves you, sees you (always—you’re the apple of his eye), and sustains you is already there. Open your heart to him and welcome him in.

Stop… and give thanks. Gratitude has incredible power to break through negativity and transform the entire atmosphere around you, wherever you are. Though I would not have chosen the timing of this, with everything else going on in my life right now, I am grateful that the right house came along at the right time (God’s time, not mine), and I am grateful that we have jobs and that we were able to get a home loan in a down economy. I am grateful for a beautiful place to call “home” here in Seattle. Just focusing on these things has lifted me out of the temptation to scream, “This is just too much! How are we going to be packed and moved in just a few days?!?!”

# # #

Of course, seasons of feeling overwhelmed often last much longer than a few days, weeks, months, or even years. And they are caused by things much bigger and harder than moving. Illness, marital strife, rebellious children, financial strain, and more can leave us feeling like it’s all just too much. But this principle stands, even in those seasons: Stop. Take a breath and look around you. Give thanks. And pray.

In some mysterious way, God is there, able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine, as his peace—peace that passes all understanding—lands. Ministers. Heals. Sustains.

Right in the midst of it all, no matter what “it” is.

11 thoughts on “Overwhelmed? Stop.

  1. Living in that divine tension myself what with a funeral last week and getting married at the end of this week, and deadlines, financials, family stresses, honeymoon details, and more.
    It’s somewhat comforting to be reminded that there are plenty of others in similar spaces.
    And as you said, so many of the things beckoning are also good things, stuff of which to be grateful.

    • Kendall, what an exciting time for you. Believe me, there is no season when it’s more important to “stop” than the week of your wedding. So much of the days ahead will fly by. Do what you can to pause, take mental (and literal) pictures, and journal. Just last night, I read through my journal pages from the week leading up to and following my wedding last year, and I couldn’t believe how many things I had already forgotten! (Like coming down with bronchitis and going to see my childhood doctor, who started me on a z-pack the day of my wedding rehearsal! I forgot that I spent my honeymoon coughing! Ha!) I am praying for you and your bride right now. I pray that this week and your wedding and honeymoon will be, as they were for me, a most beautiful gift from God, when you will be surrounded by people who love you and share (and increase) your joy. Multiplied blessings to you!

  2. Love this – thank you! And I’m feeling overwhelmed in this season of my life as well. What a wonderful reminder to pause, reflect, and give thanks. So much to be thankful for. 🙂

    • Eva, thank you for reading and commenting. I know enough about you to know we’re pretty similar; like me, you have a propensity for being involved with many (wonderful) things and spread thin! I am praying for you now, that you will have some breathing room soon. But until then, may God meet you in those brief moments when you “stop.” Blessings to you!

  3. Thanks for the reminders, Christy. This is preventative for me as May is one of “those months” and I can look forward to stopping frequently during the weeks ahead.

    • Thanks for reading, Andy! I know you’ve been busy too—hope you have a really blessed May, and that you are surprised and delighted by moments of true inspiration in the midst of it. Many blessings!

      • Christy, I’m praying for you and Karl–may this house be used as a place of blessing for many who come in the doors and feel God’s real presence and sense the peace of God and the outpouring of His Spirit through you and Karl as you love and minister. Thought of you often at retreat last weekend. Our worship leader did a great job, but I missed your sweet, exuberant, Spirit directed worship and I missed you, sister! Love, Sharon Borg

  4. Sharon, thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words! I miss being part of the Cape May retreat so much, and hope that some day I’ll get to come back and join you all again. Those years leading worship with you and the hundreds of other women are some of my sweetest memories. Lots of love to you!

  5. Sometimes I’ve thought that stressful situations are like the scene in the gospels when the disciples are in the storm on a boat and the Lord is sleeping! They’re all freaking out and prepared to meet their maker (“Uh…guys. He’s right there in the boat…”). And they wake Him up and the storm dissipates. I think we’re the disciples, our bodies the boat, our lives the storm, and our hearts “below decks” where Jesus can seem like He’s asleep! It’s like we have to stop paddling and go down into our hearts to wake Him up, which is just what you did. It takes a moment of “stopping” and looking inward to the presence of God for our stability. Thanks for sharing!

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