There are some things that have the ability to rob us of life. One of those things is the “what ifs” that live in our minds. They take up free space and cause us to loose sleep. Sometimes our “what if” thoughts sound like this, “What if I say the wrong thing?” “What if I loose my job?” “What if my loved one doesn’t come home?” And the list goes on and on. These thoughts keep us from living in the present by keeping us in the past or the future. We think of the mistakes and missed chances of the past or we think of future scenarios that we have no control over. Once the “what ifs” calm down in our minds, they leave us a gift…anxiety. They don’t ever really just go away, they just calm down for a while and then come back. Until, we do something really different.
In my early 30’s, I made a change. I decided that I was no longer going to wear uncomfortable shoes. I went to my closet and purged my shoes. I only kept the ones that felt good. Many of my high heals went in the donation box. Many of my old tennis shoes went as well. I got rid of the ones that I might wear some day and the ones that I used to wear. I only kept the ones that felt good. At the end of my purge, I had a lot less clutter in my closet and my feet were happy.
One little Bible verse tucked inside the New Testament says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). I don’t know about you, but this verse tells me to trade in my “what if” thoughts through prayer in return for peace. God’s peace! That sounds like a pretty good deal.
Doing something really different means that we have to create new practices to help us keep our “what if” thoughts in check. When they attempt to take over the joy in our days or the sleep in our nights (God is always awake!), we have the option to trade them in for peace through prayer. This is not a new idea, but it may be a new practice. And a new practice takes practice. One step at a time.
P.S. Join me in reading (or rereading) Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow over the next few weeks. I would love to hear about your experience with this helpful book.
Do you remember the story about that little boy who got sent to bed by his mother? He was sent to his room and told to immediately go to bed. Five minutes later you could hear, “Mooooom!” coming from his room. His mother responded, “What do you want? You are supposed to be asleep!” The little boy replied, “I’m thirsty. Can you please bring me a glass of water?” “No,” she replied. “You had your chance to get a drink. It’s too late now. Go to sleep.” Five minutes later: “Mooooom!” “WHAT?” “I’m THIRSTY! Can you PLEASE bring me a glass of WATER!” “I told you NO! And if you ask me again then I will have to come into your room and spank you!” Five minutes later: “Mooooom!” “WHAT!” “When you come into my room to give me a spanking, will you please bring me a glass of water?”
Simply put – moms matter! Whether it’s delivering a cold glass of water to a child at bedtime, putting a Darth Vader (or Hello Kitty) Band-Aid on a possibly bleeding area of flesh, or cranking up the “people-mover” for yet another trip to yet another activity – we can’t live without mom! Moms care. Moms are supportive. Moms are compassionate. Moms nurture. Moms remember. Moms are beautiful and brilliant. Moms truly provide us a glimpse of God right here on earth. The prophet Isaiah declares the word of the Lord, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:13). How amazing that the example God uses for the way he plans to comfort his people is that of a mother comforting her child. There is an old Spanish proverb that states, “An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest.” How true!
Moms are also powerhouses. Whether the work be done in the home or beyond the home, you can bet it makes an impact. I’ve had some amazing mothers in my life. My biological mother is a very talented writer and artist. My stepmom put up with my adolescent complexities (I’m a pastor – so I’m not supposed to write what she actually had to put up with!) when I was still living at home with she and my dad (and afterwards as well, I suppose). As Mark Twain commented, “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” My maternal grandmother lived with us on the farm. She taught me my spelling words, how to play dominoes, an appreciation of nature and the outdoors, and how to throw a really good fit. My paternal grandmother was a second grade school teacher for twenty-five years, and poured herself into me. My best friends’ mom gave me a home away from home, safety, shelter, and an ear when I most needed it growing up (and I’m excited to get to see her this weekend at his wedding!). And I’ve got one heck of a mother-in-law, who couldn’t be a better grandmother to my children. I’m not sure who or where I would be today had it not been for these virtuous women (among others I did not mention), and I thank God for their presence in my life.
Perhaps you’ve read the job description for a mother as it’s been posted in numerous places. If not, then I’d like to share it with you now…
“POSITION: Mother, Mom, Mama
JOB DESCRIPTION: Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in faraway cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.
RESPONSIBILITIES: The rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next. Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices. Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product. Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.
POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT & PROMOTION: Virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: None required unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.
WAGES AND COMPENSATION: Get this! You pay them! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.
BENEFITS: While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life if you play your cards right.”
So as Mother’s Day 2016 approaches, don’t forget to hug some necks and shout a big “HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY” to those moms and women in your life who made you who you are today.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Steven Bell
Senior Pastor | First United Methodist Church of Corsicana
That’s right…Milk Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels. My husband brought them home last night. We were celebrating because good things have been happening in our life lately. But today was a different day. My assessment…too many good things today. So many in fact that the first time I relaxed as at 9:13pm! Since my feet hit the floor this morning I have been running here and there running everywhere. Everywhere. Lunch at school. Dog to the groomer. Grocery store. Church for Bible study. Daisy troop. Willy Wonka Rehearsal.
This day could have easily been stressful and miserable for many reasons. One moment, when I was just on the edge of loosing control of my attitude (which means the rest of the day would be derailed and follow me down the impatient, anxious and frustrated path), I stopped. I decided an apology was necessary. It was well received. Then I focused on being in the moment. Just being with my children and friends.
The reward for submitting to the day was spending time with a friend with horses and goats. Instead of hurrying on to the next appointment, I stopped the car. We hopped a fence and enjoyed being with beautiful horses on a beautiful day. We opened another fence and enjoyed 15 playful goats. We relaxed and our day turned better.
Some days when there are too many good things happening because we are pouring ourselves into people we love the most, there are big reasons to celebrate. (Even if our first moment to relax at the end of the day is after 9pm, there is still reason to celebrate.) Not that we need an excuse to enjoy a chocolate treat on any day…but on days like this it tastes even sweeter.
Tomorrow I will try to live more balanced and I can celebrate that too with more chocolate!
What do you do when you are told to stop? That has been my question since February. It has been haunting me because I do not have a quick answer or an easy one. Stopping sounds dreamy until it is real. Then it is not dreamy anymore. It is a waste of time…only for slackers…not an option. (My inner thoughts sound like a normal American…produce, produce, produce.)
My stop sign was put up while I was peacefully sleeping one night or maybe when I was in the Starbucks line ordering my soy chi latte. Someone dug the hole and planted the post beside the road far enough away that I could not see them doing it. If I could only find the person(s), I would make them give me names. (Now I am starting to sound like a book I just read…selfish…revenge…anger.)
But I am a person of faith. In fact, I am a pastor…faith is my business. Yes…I have been told to stop going down the road I was on. Yes…I was surprised. Yes…I have grieved. My other questions have been…Where is God in this? Who else did God ask to stop in the Bible?
The first person that comes to mind is Martha. Poor Martha (Poor Meredith??) She was about so many things. So much busyness. So much stress. So much planning. For Martha, it was time to stop. It was time to be humbled. It was time to be teachable.
As I see my stop sign shining on the horizon, I find myself stepping off the pavement even a little sooner than I have to step off. I find myself not answering all the questions but simply living with the questions knowing the answers will come on a day I least expect them. Then I will know but it won’t matter anymore.
Until then I am going to walk off the pavement… on the dirt…on the grass for a while to remember what it feels like to not have a plan or an appointment. Each day may feel like a gift and that is worth stopping.
In my laundry room I have a cute knick-knak that is a reminder to me. It says, “When life feels like a roller coaster, throw your hands up and enjoy the ride!” It is a good reminder for me because my natural reaction to difficult news or a difficult day is to fix it so we can move one. My natural response to stress is to cover it up, put a bandaid on it…keeping moving. I am not sure where I learned this response or if I was born with it, but it is my gut reaction to stress, difficult news, suffering, etc.
What I have learned in my faith journey is that I am really not in control. Period. I am not important enough or powerful enough to or smart enough to “fix” things. The fact that I believed for a long time that I could “fix” life is a little narcissistic. (Confession #10,784) More than a character flaw, it was exhausting! Very exhausting! Through faith I have learned that the first step I need to take is to let all of the pieces of the puzzle fall to the floor. Just let them fall. Just doing that one thing allows more space for breathing. Just breath. When I get to this point, I am able to pick up the pieces that truly matter and let the others ones stay on the floor…maybe forever.
This week I found that I could not stop the feeling of urgency all around me. I get tired of going to multiple stores for multiple reasons. The back of my car was full of different bags that needed to go to different places. My solution…a pound cake. I felt the need to throw some flour in a mixer with eggs and tons of sugar and butter. It felt good to turn on the mixer and make some noise. Some different noise. I didn’t share the bowl or the spoon with my daughters. I licked it by myself. It was good. The cake tasted delicious when we sat around our table at 7pm to enjoy a warm slice. A slice of peace.
I may not be able to stop the pace of life around me…but I can stop and make a pound cake. I did. It was good. Just like life is good when I accept there are some things I can’t fix! Today I am reminded that Jesus is my savior because He saves me from a life of control…daily.
Now…pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees and find your mixer! Create some yummy peace. The shopping list can wait.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Some of you have already decorated for Christmas. I know because you have told me. Some of you are dreading pulling out the boxes to decorate. I know because that is me. All of us approach this season differently and anyway we do it it really does work. We celebrate the birth of Jesus, we make memories, we enjoy way too much good food. This is a great time of the year for many reasons.
As we begin the holidays, I want to suggest some great books that have helped me to approach the spiritual side of holidays as well as the festive side. So often, the work of the holidays falls on our shoulders. It is a blessing that we have families that depend on us. In my experience, it doesn’t take much for me to go from fun and festive to tired and frustrated. I have found that if I focus on the spiritual side of the holidays, my family usually falls in right behind me. We lead and they follow. It is another blessing of being a wife and/or mother.
Here are some book suggestions that I would suggest you pick up and read in the next few weeks…before everything else begins. Don’t over do it. Just one will do for this year and you can read the other one next year. I hope they will bless you.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)