Lately I feel like I've been drowning in a sea of responsibilities. Never enough time to stop and reflect, some days it feels like I don't have enough time to breathe.
I've been stressed. I can feel it coming out of my pores; stress leaking out of my eyeballs whenever I get weak and let my guard down.
I've said to Bob more than once, "I'm not happy. And I don't know why." Life is running over me like a freight train, and I feel powerless to grab on and slow it down.
I know this is what so many people deal with every day. I think about this. How many other people are out there feeling like they can't breathe, barely holding it together.
I don't think what I'm going through is unique, nor is my life overly complicated or unfolding in some particularly bad way. I'm just another average person struggling to balance work, life, health, spirituality, and the world around me. There are tons of things that are going well in my life -- so much I have for which to be thankful. I know that, and I count my blessings each day. I also look around and see so much tragedy. Maybe I need to stay off of social media (I've thought that more than once recently). But I don't want to shut myself off to global and national struggles. And I don't want to be uninformed about the challenges my friends and loved ones are facing and sharing online. I don't want to stick my head in the ground, but I need a way of coping with the pain I see all around me. And I need a way to process my own life stressors. I think in many ways I'm managing stress a lot better now in my current state than I did even one, two, or more years ago. But still....
So all of this brings me to what I've been grappling with lately: putting my trust in God.
It's a simple concept really but so so very hard to understand inside my heart.
I bought a little print for my wall that says Pray More Worry Less. It's tiny. And it's how I've been trying to live lately, needing to pray more and worry less. Worrying is going to kill me.
But it is so much harder to put my trust in God.
Worry is what I know how to do. I'm so good at it, I can do it without even realizing that's what's going on.
I've seen what happens when I really get deep into my prayer life. I've felt God's presence, and I've seen how constant prayer has worked in my life.
But I also have those doubts. Was that really God working there, or did I just think through the problem deeply enough to be able to resolve it in a way that worked for me?
There have been a couple of times when I really did feel God's presence, but even now I look back and wonder if it was a fabrication of my own psyche.
I said the best prayer awhile back, for a loved one, for God to help prevent a hardship for that person. It didn't "work." But then I wondered if maybe I'm praying for the wrong things. Instead of praying for God to "fix" it, maybe I need to pray for others to be able to feel His presence. To feel the incredible peace and comfort that comes from those God moments.
I have to remind myself that God's son was crucified. Crucified. This is life for God. I tend to read the Bible with a fairly open interpretation. At my roots, I am a scholar of language and my philosophical beliefs center around the ways in which man has objectified and manipulated language (to further human agendas) even before it was written word. So the Bible to me is an important text, but first and foremost it is a text and should be read as such. But I think about the fact that Jesus died on the cross, that Jesus suffered in his human form, and I remember that as beautiful as life is, it is also pain and suffering. The gift of God is life after death; it is not avoidance of pain and suffering here on this earth. The gift of God is the amazing love and grace we, as His children, gift to each other. This is how we hold each other up, this is how we help each other, by trying our best to reflect God's love, make it through these hard and painful times.
So maybe I need to pray less for God to help us avoid pain and suffering and more for friends and loved ones to feel His love working through others, surrounding them and filling them with the peace we can only know through Him.
All of this leads me to the realizations I came to yesterday.
Two things I've been worrying about lately. Trying to pray about them but not doing a very good job of actually putting my trust in God.
The first instance is the fact that little Stevie has had multiple cavities. I have felt such shame over the fact that I let my child get cavities. I have really been down on myself over this. It's been a perfect storm of contributing factors (we didn't realize he wasn't getting any fluoride -- now we have him on a fluoride vitamin/supplement -- he loves sweets, and he hates to brush and floss). It doesn't really matter the reasons. It matters that I have been working very hard to forgive myself and not be so hard on myself, because I can't help feeling that I've let down my little boy. Because we had such a hard time getting in to see the dentist (its own long story) the result is that one of the cavities was so bad he had to have his tooth pulled. It's a baby tooth and there is no permanent damage for his permanent tooth, so that is a positive. Needless to say, I have been alternatingly beating myself up and trying to be kind to myself.
And trying to find God in all of this.
So yesterday was the day. And I was so worried. I've been upset about all of this for so long and have had so many conflicting emotions, so many of which have been tied up in these feelings like I should have been protecting him. It's my responsibility as a parent to protect him. I should have not given him so many sweets. I should have forced him to brush his teeth. I should have held him down and forced him to let me floss his teeth. I should have remembered that we don't have fluorinated water and made sure we were giving him supplements. I need it to be clear how much responsibility I felt for all of this. It has been eating me up.
So the big day came yesterday. Bob messaged me the whole time and let me know that Stevie was doing really well. I left work as early as I could to see him for myself. I got home and found my little sunshine boy, happy as can be. He was so happy, so full of joy. He was his beautiful, bouncy, resilient self.
And it hit me like a ton of bricks: I had not given him any credit. I had not factored in at all Stephen's strength of character. His resiliency.
And then this realization came to sit lightly on my shoulders: I had not given Him any credit.
In all of my worrying, I had left no room for God.
God made that little boy; he made him perfectly for me. Not necessarily for me. He is a child of God. He was made perfectly for God. But let's not forget God's other child, who suffered. Life is not a promise of no suffering, but God will make us perfect (in our own messed up, sometimes painful ways). He will help us cope when coping is necessary, and He will offer grace and redemption and the opportunity to have life everlasting (that's what I keep telling myself).
I had that realization about Stephen and about getting out of the way of God, and I realized that it can apply to many other situations and people in my life as well.
Something we learned with my home group last year that continues to stick with me: Sometimes when we try to fix someone else's problem, we are actually getting the way of God who has a much better plan for that person.
So many times I put so much pressure on myself to fix others' problems, and I have to remember that I can't fix it. That is all God. I can pray for him to guide me and to lead me in a way that might bring comfort or aide to that person, but it is all on God to work in that person's life.
Powerful to remember.
Finally the last point.
I am helping with the kids choir this year, helping so that the kids can sing in the contemporary service, since they haven't had the capacity to do that in years past. It has been a wonderful experience but one I have found a little daunting, since I have been feeling overwhelmed lately by just the mere act of existing.
I have been beating myself up over not doing more. I didn't get the music to someone in time for them to be able to practice enough, and I was stressed out over how we were going to have accompaniment for the kids this Sunday.
In this area, I have also been working hard to pray more and worry less. I know enough to know that God's got the church, God definitely has kids singing. It's kind of like a thing for Him.
But I also worry. That's kind of like a thing for me.
So I've been worrying, probably more than I even consciously realized. Mostly just kind of being upset with myself. Seems like it is one more thing I've screwed up on. One more way I'm letting myself and others down.
Yesterday a favor was asked of the praise band. And as we marched the precious Littles in to our contemporary worship space, God light shined through the stained glass windows and the sounds of this full band playing their song filled the air.
I was surrounded by His presence.
Telling me to stop trying to control everything. Stop feeling that it is all my responsibility.
Open up my heart and let Him in.
We went back to the choir room and did a cute little body percussion activity with the kids that had us singing (and using our bodies as percussion instruments), with the final line saying "If anybody asks you who I am, tell them I'm a child of God."
What a beautiful, simple message.
I am a child of God.
I have no tidy way to wrap this up, and the sweet peas just woke up. I guess all of this is to say that as I continue to balance all of my responsibilities and all of my life stressors, I just need to keep remembering that I am a child of God and I need to put my trust and my faith in Him.