What to do when you are all wound up

Do you remember playing tetherball when we were kids?  You know the one where the ball is attached to a string on pole?  You hit the ball back and forth with another kid trying to get the string all wound up on one side or the other.  You hit the ball and it goes round and round winding up the rope in one direction.  Your opponent hits the ball and it unwinds and starts to wind up the other way.  Round and round the ball goes getting wound up and down and up again in a new way.  Eventually the winner is whoever can hit the ball so hard that ball goes around the pole so fast that the other player can’t act fast enough to stop it and all the rope is wound up tight.  Remember this game?  (I found these awesome tetherball videos for your viewing pleasure.)

I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel a lot like that tetherball.  I’m just being whacked back and forth getting wound up about one thing and then the next.  Budgets due at work *whack*!  The house is a mess *whack*!  Accidentally replying all to that unfortunate email *whack*!  Parent/teacher conference *whack*!  Whatever the things are in your own life that cause you to get all wound up.  Confession time:  Nothing in this world makes me crazier than messy, dirty, and cluttered spaces.  And currently both my office and my home are in transition for a move.  So my office is a disaster.  My house is a disaster.  And I am a disaster.  I am all wound up and feeling pushed around by stuff outside of my control.  I want the stress ping-pong to stop but I can’t make it stop.

 Ever felt like that poor little tetherball being whacked back and forth between one stressful situation and another?

It is incredibly difficult to stop or even slow down this kind of stressful winding up.  There are a lot of things we have to deal with that we simply cannot control.  We cannot make our co-workers more agreeable or easier to work with and we cannot make our jobs any easier either (unless you get a new job).  Sometimes you are going to come up against deadlines and it is going to be challenging and exhausting.  We cannot control things like accidents or disease.  A phone call from a doctor or a police officer has the ability to send us reeling and change our lives forever.  We cannot control other people in our lives.  Our friends and family have the ability to make our lives very stressful.  Certain situations are always stressful- moving for instance.  Any kind of change can wind us up and make us feel like that out of control tetherball.

If this is where you are right now, please know I am sorry and I want to pray for you.  It is an awful, awful feeling to be trapped and tossed about by circumstances we can’t control.  It is not okay and I am so sorry.

So what’s the answer?  Well it’s not avoidance.  You can do all the right things to stay healthy and still get sick.  You can be the most productive worker in your office and still struggle with a particular assignment.  You can have an amazing relationship and still have to work through difficult issues.  You cannot out run it.  You cannot out plan it.  You cannot stop it.  S@#* happens.  And you can’t avoid it.

So now don’t you feel super encouraged?  Ok that’s it!  Have a great day!  Ok no, I’m totally kidding.  But seriously, I get it.  You can’t avoid it. You can’t stop it.  And all you want is to stop being whacked around by the stress and trouble in your life.  So what do you do?

I’ve only found one thing that works, at least for me.

I have to stop being the tetherball.  I have to step away.  

Get out of the game.  Take a break.  It does not make my problems go away.  I’m still going to have to face all that.  But for one day I don’t have to fight those battles.  For one day I can just breathe deeply and rest fully.  This sounds easy but can be very difficult to actually do.  If someone you love is battling cancer it can seem incredibly selfish to just step away for a day.  If you up against a deadline at work taking a day off can seem incredibly stupid.  But I’m not kidding when I say sometimes you have to just unwind.  It doesn’t have to be any big soul-searching retreat.  It can be as simple as spending one day at home in your pjs not doing laundry, chores, or answering emails.  It can be a movie-marathon.  It can be an epic bubble bath + good book combo.  It can be a day spent working on a project that does feed you- maybe a home DIY project, gardening, or a special craft project.  I’m not the boss of you.  YOU have to know yourself well enough to know what will feed your soul and let you rest (if you don’t  know what feeds you, you have a much, much bigger issue on your hands).

So my guess is now you are coming up with a list of reasons (excuses…let’s be real) why you can’t possibly take a day off.  You’ve got responsibilities!  You’ve got kids!  You are the primary caregiver!  You are the point person on the project!  No one else will take care of that!  Listen…some of that might be true.  Maybe even all of it is true.  But you still aren’t the most important thing in the world and the world will keep on spinning if you take a day off.  You can find someone to take your kids for an afternoon.  Or have time to yourself while they are at school or once they go to bed.  You can ask another family member to come take care of your ill loved one for a day (and choose a day when that is possible with schedules of doctors appointments and treatments).  You can delegate responsibility to another team member- and you know that once you take a break you will come back much more productive.  Letting yourself get so wound up that you snap helps NO ONE.  Stop pretending that it does.  You don’t have to be foolish and you do not have to be a martyr.

It may be difficult.  You may even feel some guilt (try to let that go) but when you are being whacked around by trial and tribulation and you are feeling all wound up you have to take a break.  You have to stop being the tetherball for just a little while and find your balance again.

 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord.  They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”  But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.
 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
~Exodus 14: 10-14

When you feel slapped around by life remember that these aren’t your battles to fight alone.  And, I know this is going to make you uncomfortable but, you can’t win these on your own.  Life is hard.  We get stuck between an army and a wilderness.  Don’t just stand there and think it is better that you were dead (whiny Israelites can’t even see the redemption right in front of them…oops…I do that too).  Stand there and trust that the Lord will fight for you.  God will fight for you.

You are not a tetherball.  You are a loved child of God.  You can take a rest.  God will fight for you.  So for today…you only have to keep still.

Forget and Forgive

It’s Thursday morning.  Spent all of last weekend in San Antonio on a girl’s weekend with my mom, sister, aunt, and some other lovely ladies.  Worked the beginning of the week squeezing what used to be a 5 day work-week into 2 days (I was out Sunday).  Drove to Dallas Tuesday night, got to campus and went to bed.  Up early on Wednesday to read for class, and go to class for 7.5 hours, wrote a paper, and attempted to be social (which really just looks like me eating and nodding…or being incredibly grouchy…I’m grouchy this week).  And now it’s Thursday.  I usually get to the library early and get as much work as possible done all day.  I have a spiritual formation group at 1:30 and a class from 6-9 but I spend the rest of the day reading or writing or whatever other work I have.  But it’s Thursday morning and all I have managed so far is a shower, a trip to Starbucks where I chugged a double shot of espresso and watched Netflix on my laptop, and now I am in the library in a comfy chair with my feet propped up on a table (possibly not supposed to be doing that) reading some stuff I found online last week.  So…a productive morning to be sure.

I am certain you have had days like that.  When the work of your life just doesn’t seem to compare to the sweet, sweet idea of doing…nothing.  When you need to drink a cup of coffee and just troll around online.  Or take a long walk outside.  Or read a book you’ve been neglecting.  Or whatever your thing is.

To be sure, the work of our lives is just that- work.  Whether it’s a job someone pays you for, a ministry you feel called to, a tiny human (or humans) who you are caring for and raising, volunteering for a cause you feel passionate about, or whatever it is, the things that we dedicate ourselves to can sometimes become overwhelming.

It is a joy to have work to set your mind and your might to but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have times when your brain is tired and your body is worn out.   

Today is that day for me.  And yes I will still drag myself to class. Truthfully, once I get there I will probably really enjoy it because my professor is SO SMART and I love hearing what he says about New Testament interpretation.  But all that other stuff I would normally be doing this morning…I’m going to forget about it and forgive myself.  Maybe after lunch I’ll feel up to it.  Maybe it won’t be till tomorrow or Saturday or Sunday.  But most likely it’ll be later this afternoon when I’ve let myself take a break for a while.  Cause sometimes you need to take a break.  Yes the work you do is important but it’s not more important than you.  There is always someone who can pick up your slack for a while.  Someday you’ll be that person for someone else.  Forget about it for right now and forgive yourself.  And then get back to it tomorrow.  Or Saturday.  Or next week.

Because you aren’t valuable for the work you do but simply because you exist.  

You don’t have to do anything today to earn your spot in the world.  Right now you can breath and it’ll be ok.  Seriously…it will.  Promise.  It might not feel like it but it really will.

Forget it and forgive yourself.  Hang in there!  If I can pray for you today I would LOVE to do that.  Just comment or message me!

Finding Peace

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Hello. My name is Becca and sometimes I awful. Seriously, sometimes I am just awful. Example: when I am very hungry, tired, or stressed I will be incredibly rude to anyone who gets in the way of me attempting to fix any of the aforementioned issues. “But, Becca,” I imagine you saying in your nicest, most compassionate voice, “Most people get like that when they are hungry, tired, or stressed.” Sure, sure. But the problem is I’m like that a lot in my head. I am super grateful that people don’t hear the 10 seconds after I hang up the phone with them most days. And I am even worse when I’m just thinking it. I’ve made many a person cry because of my sharp tongue and biting criticism. Honestly, most of the time I am at least thinking something critical. Which is awful.

And I do it more to myself than to anyone else. I am quick to tear my self down, frequently out loud, over the smallest infraction. Didn’t get up right when the alarm went off? Lazy. Forgot to text a student happy birthday? Selfish. Can’t figure out how much to tip the waitress? Stupid. Most days I can recount for you exactly each and every time I didn’t perform in the way that I think is right or acceptable. I am awful to myself.

And it has to stop.

During Advent our youth ministry takes a couple of Sunday nights and writes daily devotionals which we compile and give out to the congregation for them to study during Advent. It’s become a tradition and our gift to the rest of our church family to help us celebrate the season of Advent more fully. The students write them and then I go back and help them edit. And while they are all impressive and special in their own way there was one that caught my special attention this year.

The scripture was about when Mary went to see Elizabeth. I thought that the student would write about sharing your joy at Christmas but she didn’t. Instead she wrote about why it’s important for us not to judge other people and that we must care for one another because we don’t know what burdens and blessings other people are carrying with them.

Elizabeth could have thrown Mary out, called her names, refused to be kind to her. She could have seen Mary’s condition, a pregnant, unmarried teenager, and simply refused to look any further. Instead Elizabeth embraced Mary and got to share in the joy of knowing the Savior was soon to arrive.
It’s so easy to see only what’s on the outside or to see more and simply refuse to care. It’s so much simpler to judge others and cast them aside because then we don’t have to help them carry their burdens. We think if we ignore it then our lives will be easier, more peaceful. But so far that hasn’t been the case. I’ve pushed myself and only struggled more. I’ve pushed others and even pushed them away and still I don’t have peace. Pushing isn’t peaceful. Trying to be something or someone else isn’t peaceful.

But there is peace in loving others, in seeing their hardships and choosing mercy instead of judgement. There is peace in seeing people as part of one big family instead of seeing them as divided us vs. them or me vs. the world.

I’m tired of being awful.

I’m tired of feeling awful. I want to have peace. I want to share peace.

It is not always easy to love yourself and love your neighbor. But it’s what we are called to do by the Prince of Peace. And I think we’ve believed the lie that peace has to look a certain way. That somehow peace looks all calm and serene. That’s how I look when I’m bored-not necessarily peaceful. I think peace can look like a lot of different things. I think maybe peace is not an expression or a look but that it’s a state of contentment and trust. Stop expecting peace to look a certain way- there’s no peace to be found in trying to force something to be a certain way.

The way I’ve been looking for peace isn’t working for me. I’ve been trying to change people or change myself or change my situation for far too long. So I’m going to try something different. I’m going to take a deep breath and let go.
I’m going to cut myself some slack. Do the best I can at the things I am called to do and stop giving myself a hard time when it’s not what I thought it should or would be. And I’m going to assume that everyone else is doing the same, even when they aren’t, and choose to care about more than just what they do; I’ll try to see them for who they are- a child of God. I’m going to let go of my expectations for myself and everyone else and just do the best I can trusting that God is bigger than my shortcomings, doubts, and worries. I’m going to trust that if I care more about the person standing next to me than I do about myself that I will be able to love them and help them carry their burdens. I’m going to be content with right now and leave tomorrow up to the Big Boss. Because Christmas isn’t about us “making peace”. Peace is a gift that we get when we trust and let God come into our messy, sometimes awful lives. Maybe peace isn’t something we find at all. Maybe it’s simply something we accept. Not with a big shout that we’ve discovered it but with a soft sigh because we have shared in it.

I’ll confess that this one was hard for me to write. I’m not sure this is the answer. I’m not even sure this makes a whole lot of sense. I know all too well that I don’t know anything at all. But I know that I’ve never made myself more peaceful. So I’m going to trust that God promised to bring me peace and be content that He is as good as His word.

May your Advent season be one of peace.