Finding Room to Breathe

I recently heard an explanation for why some people feel overwhelmed in large crowds of people, and others don’t. Some people get frustrated about having to fight their way through all the people on a crowded street, or at the mall right before Christmas. They see all the people in their way, as obstacles to maneuver around.

But there are other people who face the same challenge, and instead of seeing all the people in the way, they see the spaces between the people – gaps they are aiming for so they can slip easily through the crowd, almost like a dance with complicated but graceful steps to learn and enjoy.

Sometimes, my life has the same energy as a shopping mall on Christmas eve – lots of hustle, bustle, bodies everywhere, trying to get something done with obstacles everywhere, feelings of joy, feelings of frustration, lots of noise, lots of chaos, lots of busyness. I have three people talking to me at once, more often than not, and the introvert in me starts to go crazy, even though I love almost all of it.

But there are also times when my three angels are playing together so sweetly, it almost makes me hurt because I feel so much joy.

Everett wraps his little arms around my neck, Anika and I explore the depths of fantastic conversation, and Kaylia bares her soul during the quiet moments before bed. These sweet moments make the times of chaos completely worth it, and I start to see there are gaps to aim for.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed and all I can see are the obstacles. But things always balance out, and I find the spaces between the craziness – not because we aim to avoid the hard stuff, but because they don’t seem as a big a deal when we’re not focusing on them.

This morning, I was making granola in the kitchen, and I suddenly became aware of how peacefully quiet and content everyone was. Kaylia and Everett were playing together, and Anika was doing her schoolwork. The house smelled heavenly, it was cleaner than usual, everyone was fed and satisfied and happy. I stood there by the oven, and just breathed it all in, because in that moment, everything was…perfect.

And then the moment passed, and things got crazy again, but that was also wonderful, in a different kind of way.

I’m trying to remind myself to look for the gaps where we can slip through easily and breathe deeply, and slide along through the tough spots, because the obstacles and the gaps together make up my little world right now. We need a balance of both.

So here’s to a beautiful life that slips easily through the tough spots, and we find the gaps to enjoy, as well as the obstacles to challenge us.

 

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Replenish: Sneak the Good Stuff in Through the Back Door!

I received an advanced copy of Lisa Grace Byrne’s new book, Replenish, for reviewing purposes earlier this summer, and have been wanting to share my thoughts on it with all of you…

A few months ago, I read that the best way to add a healthy habit into your life is to stop focusing on the junk you need to take out, and focus instead on how much good you can bring in. That way, as you fill your life with goodness, the junk will gradually get squeezed out, and will happen with less pain and discomfort!

The example used was eating more vegetables, and less junk food. When we focus on the guilt of how bad we’re eating, and make strict guidelines, we’re constantly thinking about how deprived and depressed we are. Instead, we could be choosing to celebrate all those awesome, healthy choices, and feel really good about what we’re adding to life, instead of what’s being taken away.

ReplenishSmallBoundariesThe thought has stuck with me, and so when I started reading Lisa Byrne’s new book Replenish, I was fascinated with her use of this strategy for moms who are feeling stressed, depleted, and exhausted. She suggests the need to bring balance in “through the back door” – instead of trying to get the stress under control, let’s rather bring in tools that grow a sense of calm, balance and rest. As we do this, we’ll equip ourselves to deal with the craziness, and eventually it will start to diminish. As we take steps to bring the calm in, we will notice the stress ease without needing to fight it head-on.

She writes about small, manageable steps that are easy to take, and she makes them sound so easy, so attainable, that I found myself willing to try strange, new things I’d never considered before. Suddenly, Lisa Byrne has me breathing in lavender oil to calm myself, or trying to get to bed a little earlier each night.

She writes about seven different ways in which we can bring in more balance: a calm mind, sovereign thoughts, a nourished body, restorative rest, joyful movement, anchored quiet, and authentic connection. As she focuses on each of these topics, she provides a list of simple, helpful, practical steps which can be easily included throughout the day.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, as I’ve enjoyed Lisa Byrne’s blog and many webinars over the last few years, and I was not disappointed with Replenish. Loved it.

I would recommend it to any mom who’s feeling tired, and needing some fresh ideas for getting rested up and refreshed!

Are you a fan of Lisa Byrne? Check out her blog here if you haven’t before!

My Thoughts Can Be Like Moldy Manna

I learned something fascinating the other day. It was explained to me that our bodies were not created for stress.

Not like, “It’s a bad idea to be stressed,  so don’t do it”, but more like “Our bodies cannot function in any way when we are stressed.”

So, this isn’t the scientific explanation, but what I learned is that when we feel stressed or fearful about something, our bodies kind of freak out, and go into that “fight or flight” mode, and rapidly crank out crazy amounts of hormones.

But then, there is absolutely no appropriate place for those hormones to go. They dump into other areas of the body that are not equipped to deal with the overload.

When God made us, He did not provide a way for the body to deal with that correctly or positively. All of those hormones have no way of exiting the body properly, and so they turn into toxins. (And if you know more about the scientific side to all of this, you can gladly provide more info in the comment section!)

Our bodies will never adapt to stress. We cannot learn to function with loads of stress. We just aren’t made to do that.

When God said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow”, He wasn’t kidding. He really meant, “I made you to live free from worry. I want you to trust me with absolutely everything, because I will take care of you. Your body is not made to carry that load. At all.

It makes me think about the Israelites. When they were wandering around in the desert, God provided their food. But only one day at a time. Manna came from heaven, and their needs for that day were provided for.

But if they ever tried to keep some extra for the next day, it was rotten by morning. Enough food for one day at a time. They couldn’t disobey that one, even if they tried.

God tells us worry is a sin, but we think we can still get away with it. We don’t want to settle with thoughts only for today. And maybe we don’t see them visibly rotten by morning, but…maybe we do. Studies show that 80-90% of sickness is rooted in stress.

Instead of rotten manna, we have rotting bodies. I realize that these bodies are not meant to last forever, but I fully believe we’re supposed to live with a much lighter load than we do.

I’ve written so many times about my struggles with worry and anxiety and fear. This last year has been full of learning to trust God more. But what I’m seeing now, more than ever, is that I was made for something so much different.

I have no idea if this will be what finally sticks, but lately, whenever those old thoughts come creeping in, I think to myself, “I was not made for this.”

I try to carry something I was never even meant to touch. That can never end well.

I get today. That’s it.

Fresh manna for the day.

His strength and grace and peace, for today.

And His mercy is new every morning.

Oh, that I would figure it out, and stop trying to hang on to moldy manna!

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Killing the Worry Habit

Keeping my thoughts under control is the biggest struggle of my life. By far.

It’s such a slippery thing, because I can be going about my day, appearing for all the world as though I’m a completely normal person, capably living life, and yet inside I can be following thought patterns that are rapidly spiraling out of control.

For me, it’s worry and anxiety that have held me captive for many, many years.

Sheesh, that sounds dramatic. And yet recently, as God has been convicting, teaching, and enlightening me over the last few months, I’m thinking that words like “captive” are pretty accurate. I keep begging for freedom.

There are a few reasons why I have felt it is absolutely necessary for me to develop a healthier thought life:

1. Worry is sin. It doesn’t seem as sinful as some of the other things I could be doing, but I’ve been seeing that it is just as destructive for my life.

2. Worry is the root of most of my health issues. I’ve been told that the stomach holds the stress. I don’t have any kind of series illness, I just have a lot of issues with digestion, as well as tension throughout my body that is inhibiting me from function in a normal, relaxed way.

3. Worry is holding me back from where I want to be in my life. I want to be in a place of trust. I want my prayer life to grow. I want to be growing by leaps and bounds in my relationship with God. I want to be fully present in my life as a wife and mom. I want to be relaxed and happy.

I used to think that I would easily be able to stop worrying once my problems went away. I had legitimate reasons for feeling worried and anxious. Surely anyone would feel anxious if they found themselves dealing with the stuff I was dealing with.

Uh, hello. My life will never be free of problems. It would be much easier to deal with those same problems if I wasn’t mentally freaking out all the time. I make my problems about twenty times bigger than they actually are.

Absence of worry does not equal absence of problems. It just means absence of worrying. I will stop worrying when I stop worrying, not when I stop having problems.

Because if worrying is a sin, and Jesus commands us not to do it, that would mean that we are fully equipped to stop doing it RIGHT NOW.

Yes, please. I would like some of that.

How do you get it?

Which brings us to the fantastic book I promised to tell you about.

It is presently changing my life. That also sounds dramatic, but it’s true.

It’s called “Loving God With All Your Mind”, by Elizabeth George.

My sister gave it to me awhile back, and I started reading it, but I usually have about five books on the go, which means I don’t get anywhere fast. My goal is to finish one fantastic book before I delve into another one. After I finished “So Long, Insecurity”, by Beth Moore, it was time for Elizabeth George’s book to get a little love.

Oh, my word. If you struggle with worry, go get that book.

Funny thing is, my first impression was, “This is kind of basic. I know this stuff already.”

But I don’t. If I did, I wouldn’t be worrying about everything from morning until night.

It’s time for that to stop. I’m feeling motivated, convicted, challenged and inspired. So off we go.

It’s hard work. There’s a reason why they say, “Old habits die hard.” Yes, they do.

But I’m ready to dig in. And I’ll tell you all about it next time!

Right now I have an old habit to kill… And a fantastic book to read!

What Happens When We Worry

I have a new massage therapist. His name is Nigel, and basically, I pay him money to beat me up.

I have no idea why he uses the word “massage”.

I lie on a table fully dressed as this huge black man chops at my body, and beats me with those little hammers that doctors use on your knees to check your reflexes.

I experience pain like I have never known. Childbirth seems mild, in comparison.

And yet I go back, week after week.

Why??

Because it is helping my body in dramatic ways I didn’t know were possible.

Nigel says that sometimes, in order to help people, he has to take them beyond what they can bear. If he stayed within their pain threshold, the body would never heal.

And so I am repeatedly taken over my pain threshold.

The other day as I was lying there with the tears and sweat flowing, trying my hardest not to scream as he chopped away, the thought that remained stuck in my mind was this:

I did this to myself.

All of the pain which I have to endure, is pain that I have inflicted on myself. I don’t say that in a “beat myself up out of guilt” kind of way, but rather a “let’s get real about what’s going on here, and take some responsibility” kind of a way.

Because here’s the deal: Whenever my muscles hurt really badly and I ask Nigel what causes that kind of pain, he says…

Stress.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I have struggled with worry and stress for years.

Worry is sin. And all sin has a consequence.

These days, I am being reminded in a very physical sense what the consequence is for my worry.

But it gets even more serious than that. I came across an article awhile back that offered the following statistic:

87% to 95% of the illnesses that plague us today are a direct result of our thought life.

I don’t share that to make you start worrying about what kinds of illnesses you are bringing upon yourself by worrying. I share it because it kind of amazes me that we’ve let it get to this point.

As Christians, we know that we’re not supposed to worry, or have negative, critical thoughts. But we continue to do it anyway, and it flows into every area of our lives.

I want to change. I’ve spent years trying many different things in order to improve my health, and yet what is becoming more clear to me all the time is that health is not the root of my problems, it’s worry.

Obviously, I do not have all the answers as to how to deal with that, because I’m still needing to get tortured by Nigel every other week.

But I have  found some really fantastic resources to pass on to you so that we can muddle through this together.  Be sure to check them out, and let me know what you think! (We’ll start a support group!) Or let me know if you have any other resources that would be great to share!

1) “Why Worry” – Sermon series by Andy Stanley (Part One, Part Two, and Part Three)

2) Thought Life” – Article by Dr. Leaf

3) “A More Excellent Way: Be in Health” – Book by Henry Wright