God Help Me See the Joy

I was at a boiling point. The kids had been sick for days and I was up every night worrying and tending to fevers. They were finally on the mend, but I hadn’t recovered from my exhaustion and my house was a literal disaster with laundry overload, dish laden counters, and toys everywhere. A week of sickness had left the housework neglected and everyone tightly wound. I wasn’t coping well.

It’s not that I was actually losing it on anyone, it’s just that I felt like a ticking time bomb. Every whine was making me twitch, and I was becoming increasingly agitated and overwhelmed as I looked at the mess around me. Generally I default to ranting, but it’s not something I’m proud of, so I mustered all of my strength to try and not verbalize my growing list of grievances.

I felt like I needed a pause button, but that doesn’t really exist when it comes to life does it?

Some people call vacations a pause button, but my bank account didn’t allow for one, and even if it did, I needed to pause right that minute!

I was trying so hard to keep it together, because I didn’t want to lose it on my kids or my husband. I’ve been the angry ranting mom before, and I’ve always regretted my soapbox speech after I stepped down.

My kids have had moments when they’ve gotten frustrated and they just boil over and freak out. Each time I’ve said to them, “Your emotions are okay. It’s okay to be frustrated and angry, but you’re still responsible for how you deal with them. So you need to calm down.”

I wonder though, how am I supposed to teach them to calm down and control their emotions if I can barely do it myself?

The other day I skimmed an article about the voice in your head, and I realized that mine is often negative. Not all the time obviously, but more often than I’d like to admit my inner voice is anxious, angry, and self righteous. No wonder I feel the need for a pause button so often! In 2 Corinthians 10:5 it says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” See I know that at the root of it I need to work on self control, but I can’t do it on my own. Self control takes surrender. It takes me giving over my negative mindset to God and saying, “Here! Take it God. Help me to see things in a new way. Show me the joy that I’m struggling to see!”

The truth is I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, but on days like this, I’ve had a hard time seeing it. This stage of my life is often so chaotic, and somedays it’s hard to see all the joy in the midst of it. So I’m starting something new. When my inner narrative becomes sour, when I feel like a kettle ready to blow, I’m going to take my thoughts captive. I’m surrendering my soapbox to Christ and asking for a fresh perspective in return. I must, because I know there is joy in every story, but so often I struggle to see it on my own.

Slowly, God is teaching me to see all of my blessings. I’m tired, but it’s because I’m blessed with four amazing kids to keep me up at night. My living room may be strewn with toys, but it’s also filled with laughter. And though my counters are a mess of plates, cups, and bowls, it’s because I have plenty of food to dirty my dishes. In the grand scheme of things, I’m living the good life!

It’s not gonna be easy changing my thought process. I’ve developed a bad habit of dwelling in negativity and self pity, but I know surrendering my thoughts to God is the only answer.

Sure a vacation sounds dreamy, but a pause on life isn’t what I truly need at the core. An escape is a temporary fix, and sure I would love some rest and relaxation, but what I truly need is a change of perspective that only God can give me.

I guess I’m not looking for a pause after all. Instead I’m asking God to hit the reset button for my mind, so I don’t have to check out, but can check in with a new mindset. I want to see my life for all it’s beauty and spend my days soaking it in instead of grumbling as it passes me by.

Show Compassion For What You Cannot See

Cold and flu season has hit my house in full force and it means that I’ve had sick kids for a week with little end in sight. I’m exhausted, but not just physically, the worries of this week have me feeling emotionally drained.

Yesterday I took my daughter to the ER. It was the busiest I’d ever seen it, filled with sleep deprived parents and crying babies and poor little worn out kids. You could feel the anxiety in the air, as each parent stared nervously at their child. It was heavy.

As I waited for my daughter to be triaged, I felt her forehead hot with fever. I watched her nose appear to flare slightly with each breath. I gazed at her eyes, so heavy after days without a good nights rest. I wanted somebody to make my baby better and take away her pain.

As the waiting area filled a nurse began to take down our information and symptoms. One look at her and it was obvious that she was not only overwhelmed, but annoyed. “What are their symptoms?”, she would ask as parents would relay their concerns. I felt her frustration grow as parents would give their list of symptoms. Then she came to me. “Why are you here?”, she asked with a sharp tone. I hurriedly tried to plead my daughters case. I was worried, I’ve seen my babies go downhill before so fast, but as I shared my daughters symptoms I could sense the attitude, I think I even caught an eye roll. 

After triage it became clear, my daughter was sick, but probably not as sick as I thought. Her fever was high and her heart rate was elevated, but despite my fears, her breathing was okay. Our nurse was kind and told me to come back in an hour to have her fever checked again. She sensed my concern and she trusted it. I appreciated her kindness.

As the minutes dragged on it became clear that our wait would be long. My daughter was becoming increasingly irritated as she kept trying to get comfortable with no success. I decided to have her temperature checked one more time, and make a choice from there whether to stay or go home. 

Unfortunately we ended up with the cranky nurse.

She gave me attitude in droves and became snappy as I asked her if she thought I could treat my daughter at home. I politely told her we would go home, and left.

I was NOT impressed. In fact I was angry. Not just for me, but for all the other parents who were trying to take care of their kids, but were met with a sharp tone and not so subtle eye rolls.

When I got in the car, I began venting to my husband. “So it turns out I was being a little paranoid!”, I said, “She doesn’t understand. She doesn’t know what I’ve been through! She doesn’t know that so many times a simple cold turned into an ambulance call, or being admitted for days! I worry every time they get sick! I worry because I’ve seen what can happen.” At first he sided with me, but then he said, “She doesn’t know what you’ve been through, but you don’t know what kind of a day she’s had.”

I’m not gonna lie, even as I type this I’m still a little frustrated, but he made me think.

She didn’t know. She didn’t know that last year my sons low grade fever turned into a full blown seizure that seemed to go on forever in slow motion. She didn’t know that the year before that my sons fever triggered a rare anaphylactic reaction to his virus. She couldn’t possibly know that years before, I rushed my daughter into the ER with a high fever and fast breathing and she spent the next 12 days fighting for her life.

Yesterday I was being a little paranoid, its true, but it’s because I’ve had to be, but she didn’t know that.

Truth be told, I don’t know either. 

I don’t know why that nurse had an attitude. I don’t know her story. Maybe she’d dealt with one too many rude parents or coworkers. Maybe she wasn’t feeling so good herself or she was going through some stuff at home. 

I don’t know and I never will, but it made me think about compassion and how much we all need it. 

I know I needed it yesterday, I know I need it most days, but that nurse probably needed it too. Especially on a tough day with a packed emergency room. 

It’s not easy. I still want to be annoyed with her for how she treated us, but the truth is, I need to learn to show more compassion in situations like this. To let things slide instead of getting angry and choose to give people the benefit of the doubt.  

I know I’ve had days when I’ve been snappy and rude, and I’m grateful that people haven’t written me off for it. We all have our moments where its all too much and we don’t cope well. 

Society teaches us to confront attitude, to stand up for our rights, to speak to a manager and say our piece, and sometimes it may be needed, but more often than not, we need to let it go. We need to recognize that there is often so much more going on below the surface. We need to make a choice to greet attitude with compassion, because we all have our moments, and sometimes we just need a little grace for all the things you cannot possibly know or see.

When Jealousy Comes Easier Than Joy

Lately I’ve been noticing a growing unrest in myself. A longing for something more and it’s taking it’s toll on me. See I’m not talking about ambition, I’m talking about jealousy.

This year has been tough! Despite our budgeting and saving, finances are tight. We’re emotionally and physically exhausted, and twenty nineteen has been filled with injuries and multiple frantic trips to the ER because one my kids couldn’t breathe. It has been hard and at times I find myself jealous and resentful even at others seemingly simple lives. I find myself questioning when our hardships will end. Overall I find myself growing in frustration as life seems to throw hurdle after hurdle at us.

Lately though, God has been speaking to me in the gentle way He often does, and it all boils down to one word. Grateful. Confusing I know. Twenty nineteen has been one for the books, BUT there has been so much good! Things that up until now, I have chosen to ignore in favour of self pity. 

My marriage is probably the best it’s been in 11 years, we’ve finally got our budgeting and savings on track, and I have four healthy children. Really that last one is huge for me. My kids have asthma, severe food allergies, and my daughter had sepsis when she was one. Each of them have nearly died, BUT they are here, and for the most part, they’re healthy. I have been fortunate enough to always leave the hospital with my child. God has blessed me beyond measure.

This week I have been reminded of the commandment to “not covet” and how important it is. When I was a kid we were often taught about the Ten Commandments and I remember thinking that one was weird. I mean the others make sense. Don’t kill, don’t worship other Gods, don’t cheat, those are givens, but coveting? What’s that and what’s the big deal with it anyway? 

As a little kid coveting was explained to me as the desire to have what someone else has. I can’t say I really understood the significance when I was little, but as I got older coveting has become a really big struggle. 

See at the surface this commandment seems really insignificant, but I think it may actually be at the root of a lot of our troubles. I think that most of us struggle with coveting on a daily basis, because what coveting truly is, is jealousy and dissatisfaction. It’s a dangerous blend of envy and ungratefulness. Often it’s what causes people to lie, cheat, and steal. You may be thinking “Phewf, not me! I’m in the clear on this one”, but if your like me, coveting is a daily issue, just in a more subtle way.

Now, coveting isn’t a commandment because God is gonna smite us for being jealous of our neighbour and wanting what others have. No! This commandment is for our own good. Jealousy has a sneaky way of stealing our joy. It makes us resentful and angry at God and man, instead of being grateful for all that we have been given. It paints our worldview with sadness, frustration and anger and causes us to be dissatisfied with life. It seems minor, but coveting has a domino effect. 

Truthfully I think I struggle with it almost every day. I covet my friends homes. I covet all the pretty things I see on Instagram. I even covet the success of others. This seemingly innocent act ends up having a big impact on my life. The more I covet, the less satisfied I am with life, and the more frustrated I become with God. I begin to feel like I’ve been gipped.

One of the things I really struggle with coveting is talent. Over the years I’ve questioned on more than one occasion why I couldn’t be talented like __________. I would talk to God and say, “Why didn’t you give me that? Why couldn’t I have that talent? How come they get to have all the gifts, and I have none.” In His gentle way, He would reply, “But I gave you talents Sarah. I just gave you different ones”.

He’s right. He has given me talents. He’s given me a voice to sing and words to write, and yet I have been so ungrateful. I have been greedy for more, I have been jealous of others blessings, and sometimes I’ve even resented them for it.

 I don’t want to live that way anymore, so I’m choosing to be grateful and ask God to give me contentment in all seasons. Some days it won’t be easy, but I think that even in the worst of times, we can all find something to be grateful for. To start, I’m thankful for a God who changes my perspective.

So though coveting seems like such a minor thing, I encourage you to look for it. Search your heart, because though it starts small and seems innocent, coveting is huge. It steals your joy, it distracts you, and it can make you greedy for things that were never intended to be yours. Coveting is a trap you can’t see until your already stuck in its clutches. God wants more for us. He wants us to live in gratitude and contentment. He wants us to see our lives as abundantly blessed and to use what He has given us instead of longing for what He has given to others. So, may we learn to claim our joy, instead of trading it for jealousy.