Tuesday, October 30, 2012


This past weekend, I went on a retreat with the women’s group I’m honored to be a part of, and to serve on as one of the board members. It’s my favorite event we do all year, one I  count down to starting at the end of summer. I always know something life changing, or at least perspective changing, will happen to me. This year I got both. Right now I’ll focus on the perspective change.

Many of you who know me, and some of you who don’t but have followed What If I Said long enough to notice my emotional trends, will know that I have a pretty low stress threshold. I get overwhelmed easily. By stupid little things that to normal people wouldn’t make one lick of difference. And once something small happens, every subsequent thing looms larger and larger, until I’m spiraling out of control on a wave of crazy.

I’ve had a rough October. With a wedding, various family crises, birthdays, planning for a women’s retreat, kids falling into a firm school routine, emotional upheaval... And when I say rough, I obviously just mean rough for someone like me, who absorbs stress, others’ troubles, and even normal everyday occurrences, like a dishrag, letting them weigh me down like dirty water. Someone like me, whose biggest accomplishment is getting laundry folded. Not put away. Just folded, and, if I’m lucky, into a basket. A basket that will sit in a corner of my living room for 2 weeks while we dig through it looking for clothes, until eventually it all needs to be folded again. And again. So you see, even my accomplishments have the hamster on a wheel quality.

This weekend, God spoke to me, through many different mediums, the word “Breathe”. That’s it. Just breathe, which in my mind, can be loosely interpreted as “Be. Just be.” Actually He’s been speaking it to me almost all year, and in my frenzied, out of control perception, it has been impossible for me to breathe. I say that frequently- “I don’t even have time to breathe!” I actually got quite offended with God earlier this year, and with the person He spoke to me through, when he told me that I needed to “Stop looking ahead to what the future holds, and enjoy where you are. Take a minute to notice your surroundings. Breathe.” Well! I was so angry I wanted to scream. One more item to add to my list of things I couldn’t possibly handle: Breathing, of all things!

When I try to sit back and make a mental list of all the things that make me feel like I can’t breathe, there’s never even anything concrete. All the things I list seem trivial, and something that most “normal” wives, mothers- stay at home or otherwise- could handle. And I just can’t. I’m ashamed of my freak-outs, embarrassed by the fact that I can’t seem to deal with what- to most people- is a normal life.

I came home from the retreat this year in the middle of Hurricane Sandy. Wet, clammy, miserable, with a head cold that I’d acquired over the weekend, to boot. My house was a disaster. My kids were out of school because of the storm. My husband and I were at each others’ throats all day, cooped up in the said disastrous house, with the three rampaging kids. Came home to stress and discord and mess and storms. It was one of my ruder awakenings, as we always get upon every return from vacation. I lost my ability to keep things in perspective rather quickly. Today was no better, with fights over homework, Atleigh catching my cold, realizing that Ashton never got his Halloween costume and making a last minute run to the packed, picked-over aisles of K-Mart to find him a costume that he didn’t even really want. Tonight, my accomplishment was getting my kids into bed unharmed. No teeth brushing. Chloe, as I type this, is sleeping with Nutella smeared across her upper lip. Atleigh, who is still awake and howling from her bed that she “Can’t go to sleeeeeep”, has strawberry jelly up her nose. Obviously, dinner was not one of my accomplishments tonight, either.

So did I breathe through all of this? The answer is probably more no than yes. But I did try. Some of it may have been breathing through gritted teeth, or through my nose as I counted to 10. And honestly, some of it was probably breathing in deeply so I could get enough power behind my yell. It will take practice.


Here are a few things I’ve embraced this weekend, and can focus on now that I’m sitting alone in my living room, just breathing. Just... being.

- I have Christ in me. The hope of glory. Hope. Of glory. Not the “already attained” glory. Hope. Which means I will always have room to grow, room to make mistakes in, room to BE. Because I will always have hope that tomorrow, I will be better.

- I can do all of this hoping with a good attitude. Hope without a good attitude isn’t hope at all, it’s malcontent. It’s just waiting for something better to come along without being satisfied where you are. And so we carry that dissatisfaction into our next “something better”, until we’ve exhausted them all and left ourselves with nothing but hope deferred and a heart made sick.

“I pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul- not the grim strength of gritting your teeth, but the glory-strength God gives.” Colossians 1, MSG

And following that,

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, ‘What’s next, Papa?’” Romans 8, MSG
While I’m sitting here, reminding myself to breathe, reminding myself to BE, I can wait with expectation. See, He’s not just telling me to breathe for survival. He’s telling me to breathe in all the promises He’s made me, to breathe in and hold within myself the “What’s next?” It goes hand in hand with the hope of glory thing.

And so, for now, for tonight, I can hope.

 I can breathe.

I can be.

And if I can do those three things, I’ve accomplished a lot more than that basket of laundry.

I bought this book today- two chapters in and I've cried probably every three pages. If you're struggling with some of the things I've just written about, I'd recommend it to you.

And here are some songs that help me get through those moments when I feel like breathing is the last possible thing I can do (keep in mind I tend towards more melancholy music. Maybe you prefer "I Will Survive". That's perfectly fine) :

Glen Hansard- Bird of Sorrow

Eden's Bridge- Shadow of Your Hand

David Crowder* Band- Sometimes

Waterdeep- Hush

Mumford & Sons- After the Storm

Jenn Johnson- Come to Me

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