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.

When It’s All Too Heavy

Lately  I’ve been thinking a lot about life and how overwhelming it can be for so many of us. How heavy life can feel with work, family, sickness, and sometimes even tragedy . Right now, my life is just a little crazy, but there have been seasons when I was in way over my head and just plain drained.

When my kids were very little I was living in a season of exhaustion. I remember feeling tapped out, like I had nothing more to give. Josh and I didn’t have the extra cash for any kind of a trip away, so there seemed to be little chance of a break. It felt hopeless, like I was doomed to a perpetual lack sleep and running on empty. In my desperation, I used to fantasize about being hospitalized for something minor like dehydration, just so I could have a good nights rest, and binge watch Netflix in peace. Crazy? Maybe, but it was my reality. I was burnt out with life!

Around that time when I was worn out and having a hard time coping, we were given the opportunity to go on a retreat in Quebec City at the luxurious Chateau Frontenac hotel. It was all expenses paid, no kids, and just what we needed. I remember at the end of it ugly crying into a mic in front of three hundred people about how much it meant to me. It was such a blessing, and was the rest I needed as a weary mom. A much needed refresh button when life felt too heavy.

Fast forward to today, life is pretty good. It’s hectic at times, but it’s slowed down a bit, and I’m finally getting some sleep. Would I love a vacation, sure, but I can manage okay without one. Over the past couple of weeks though, I’ve spoken to people who have a lot on their plates, and as I thought about them I was reminded of this verse in Matthew 11:28,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” It made me think of that retreat. Or a couple of months ago when money was tight and I was working crazy hours tutoring English online. One day I logged on but my internet was faulty, so I had no choice but to rest and be encouraged by a good friend. It made me think about shortly after, when we didn’t know how we were going to pay our bills and someone gave us an extremely generous cheque, so we were finally able to breathe without the pressure of finances on our shoulders. 

That day when my internet went glitchy I was able to get together with my friend Lisa. It’s not often that we can get together and have a good chat, but I was so stressed and panicked, I couldn’t enjoy it. “I NEED to work!” I exclaimed, “I’ve got bills to pay!”. She looked at me as the tears fell down my cheeks and said, “Maybe this is God’s way of making you take a break, so you can rest and spend time with Him”. I never thought of the technical issues as a gift, I was too busy worrying, and yet it was just what I needed. A free day where I had no choice but to rest and to listen to God. Maybe thats your rest too. Maybe it’s not obvious, it could be a blessing in disguise, but when we go to God he refreshes us in unexpected ways. He knows exactly what we need, when we need it, and when we surrender to Him He provides. He takes the weight off our shoulders, even if it’s just for a few hours, and sometimes He even lightens our load.

I don’t know what your life looks like right now, but I do know what rest in Jesus looks like. It may not be a free retreat to a glitzy hotel or a generous cheque, it could as simple as peace, wisdom, and the support of friends and family. Whatever season you’re in, whether one of balance and simplicity or one of chaos, I encourage you to seek after God, and pay attention to what He’s doing. You might be surprised with the rest your given, and how it not only refreshes your body, but your soul. 

Even as I finish writing this I’m feeling tired and a little weary. I stayed up too late (yet again) milking every second of peace and quiet to watch tv. Just as I finally surrendered to my heavy eyes and snuggled into my pillow my daughter woke up crying in her bed, so up I went, to tuck her in and wipe her tears. Now it’s nearly midnight and I know I will trudge through the next day tired, but I will press on because I know tomorrow holds it’s own little blessing. Tomorrow I get together with Lisa for a mom’s night out and tacos. It’s only a little rest, but I’m gonna eat my fill and soak it all in!