Winter Stress

Winter + Montana = pediatrician visits 3 weeks in a row.  Work deadlines + sick children = high stress.  And that, my friends, adds up to a coat most of us don’t wear real pretty.

Personally, I’ve caught myself having crazy arguments with the committee that sometimes camps out in my head – the one that points out every mistake I’ve ever made and is sure that whatever I put my hand to will fail.  This super helpful committee is sure to point out all the things that the future holds which terrify me.  This is the corner stress can back me into: the one where I’m wearing decades of crusty old guilt and carrying responsibility for a future that may never occur. 

Maybe your ugly stress coat finds you lashing out at people or fixating on having a spotless bathroom or seeking affection from some inaccessible hero.

I don’t know.  What I’m hearing from God recently, though, is that whichever particular unseemly corner we default to:  we don’t have to remain there.  Nor need we pack around that old heavy coat.  These out of control circumstances, these knee-jerk patterns, our weaknesses, what they reveal about us.  Let’s not remain hiding there, ok?  None of this is a surprise to the Creator of the universe.  God sees us there – saw us there long ago – and He did the heavy lifting.  Jesus came to live among us and humbled himself to the cross.  That power that raised Jesus from the dead?  It saves us.  It does more than that, the same power gives us everything we need for life.

Let’s preach the truth to ourselves and encourage one another.  When high stress threatens and we feel ourselves reverting back to patterns we would rather not: let’s remind each other that God’s grace and peace are ours in abundance through the heart-knowledge of God and Jesus. 

So, as this new week draws ever closer, let’s welcome all that it entails together with God’s grace and peace.  “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the heart-knowledge of God and Jesus.  His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature,” Peter tells the Church in his second letter.

If you are dreading the week’s inception (even with this pep-talk and verses) may I encourage you to share your fears with someone?  If it’s easier, tells us about it by commenting below, but if you have a real-live-person you can reach out to and hear their voice or hold their hand, may I suggest using every bit of God’s power you need to reach out directly?

Grace and peace be yours in abundance this week, dear friends.

Resolved for 2011

Holy moly, is it already twenty-eleven?!?

Some people are big into New Year’s Resolutions, and some people scoff at them. I am not ‘big’ into New Year’s resolutions, but I do like the concept of taking time every year to reflect on how the past year went, what I think I did well, what I want to do better and then make a conscious effort to do a certain number of things better than I did the year before.

One way I’ve done this in the past is to categorize my life and evaluate, like this:

1. How did I do as a Christian this year? What was my overall attitude like? What struggles did I encounter? What did I do well? — Why do I think I had these struggles/successes?
2. How did I do as a wife this year? What struggles did I have? What did I do well? — Why do I think I had these struggles/successes?
3. How did I do as a mom this year? What struggles did I have? What did I do well? — Why do I think I had these struggles/successes?

This year I’ve had a particularly good chance to reflect because I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. And, maybe the Lord was working me up to big reflection, because as I thought about a lot of the Bible verses that had been standing out to me in the last several months, they were all along similar lines:

You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted with its deceitful desires; to be made new by the attitude of your minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:23-24.)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for the building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29).

Be careful then, how you live, not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is…Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-17, 19-20).

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (Ephesians 4:7-10).

For this very reason make every effort to add to your faith, goodness and to goodness, knowledge and to knowledge, self control and to self control perseverance and to perseverance godliness and to godliness, brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:4-8).

Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to him. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2).

I have been a Christian for all of my adult life. I grew up in the Church, going to Sunday School, listening to sermons. I have made it my business to really study the Bible. I’ve participated in a lot of Bible studies.

I did well in school, top of my class. High school. College. Law school.

Not only that, but law school teaches, not the law, but how to think. How to analyze a ‘text’, what questions to ask, how to draw logical conclusions … It’s nerdy to say, but I found that the ‘thinking’ tools taught in law school, in many ways, mirrored the way I had been studying the Bible since high school. I attended a Bible study full of law students in law school and LOVED IT because we were all on the same page about analyzing the scripture.

Where I’m going with this is that, for all my education and study, I have trouble where the rubber meets the road. As in, acting on all this head-knowledge and pretty good theology I’ve got going on.

I get busy with my life. I hurry. I have a family to take care of, a mortgage to help pay, student loans, career goals. Impatience issues. A critical nature … Well. If you’d like a more exhaustive list, let me know and I can oblige.

Most years my past New Year’s resolutions have been along the lines of: “I’ve been too busy to spend time reading the Bible and praying, so I’m resolving to adhere to this Bible reading guide and praying.” Where I’m at right now, though, I think my resolutions need to be more about action and less about study and self-reflection. Not that study and self-reflection are not worthy New Year’s resolutions – I am finding that they are probably not what I need to resolve for this year.

And herein lies a dilemma. How do I ‘make the most of every opportunity,’ ‘use the gift/s the Lord has given me to administer his grace,’ ‘add to my faith, goodness … etc’, ‘offer my body as a living sacrifice’?

More practically, how do I do these things when I’m expecting my second baby soon and I just KNOW things are going to get really sleep-deprived and hairy?

That’s what I’ve been mulling over. And last week I read this book my friend Ruhiyyih sent me recently called Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson. Mark asks some good questions and poses some good challenges in this book and says, in one of his opening chapters (further convincing me that my resolutions need physical action outside my own personal quiet time) that we American Christians needs to step out of our pews and DO something.

I know that when I resolve to do something this year, I can’t resolve to do anything herculean. Realistically, I’m going to have a bleary, busy year. BUT, I can resolve a few small things that will help me, hopefully, put feet to my faith. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Consciously try to take time with people.
2. Encourage at least 1 person per week – person and encouragement means t.b.d. on a weekly basis.

So … are you a New Year’s resolution person? Are you making any for 2011?