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.
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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.
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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?!?!”
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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.